Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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Bounce N’ Around Inflatables (“BNA”) is a party rental business that rents a variety of inflatables for social events. BNA hired Austin Griggs (“Austin”) as a helper to assist in the delivering and cleaning of the inflatables. Austin, then age fifteen, was standing on an inflatable as it was lifted to the rack by a forklift. Austin fell to the ground from the forklift, and was further injured when the inflatable fell and hit him on the back. Following the injury, BNA’s workers’ compensation insurer paid Austin workers’ compensation and medical benefits. Austin eventually returned to work at BNA, with his mother’s permission. The underlying litigation arose when Austin’s mother, individually and on behalf of Austin, filed suit against BNA, its owner and insurer, seeking to recover tort damages arising out of the injury. At the conclusion of trial, the district court awarded plaintiffs $125,000 in general damages and $24,517 in special damages, plus legal interest and costs. The district court found defendants illegally employed Austin because they failed to obtain an employment certificate, and that he was engaged in an illegal task (working with power-driven machinery) at the time of the accident. In finding the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers’ compensation law did not apply, the district court relied on Ewert v. Georgia Casualty & Surety Co., 548 So.2d 358 (1989), and Patterson v. Martin Forest Products, Inc., 787 So.2d 311, for the proposition that workers’ compensation exclusivity provisions did not control over child labor laws, and a minor’s illegal employment did not amount to an election of remedies under the workers’ compensation law. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal, First Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part, dismissing plaintiffs’ tort claims with prejudice. The court of appeal found Austin’s claims were subject to the exclusive remedy provision contained in the workers’ compensation law. In reaching this conclusion, the court of appeal explicitly declined to follow the holdings of Ewert and Patterson, instead relying on Noble v. Blume Tree Services, Inc., 650 So.2d 252, which held that an illegally-hired minor was subject to the exclusivity provisions. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve this split in the circuits, and held that a minor who is illegally hired and engaged in a prohibited task at the time of his injury is subject to the exclusive remedy of the workers’ compensation law. View "Griggs v. Bounce N' Around Inflatables, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a post-divorce community property partition. The former husband, Daniel Webb, filed a claim for reimbursement and for the classification of a promissory note of $250,000 as a community obligation. The promissory note corresponded to a loan secured by a mortgage on the family home. Mr. Webb contended that Mrs. Webb owed reimbursement for loan payments and that the loan should be considered a community obligation because he borrowed the money to pay community debts. Mr. Webb admitted that he caused a forged signature for Mrs. Webb to be placed on the loan documents and that he concealed the existence of the loan and the mortgage on the family home from her. The forgery was eventually discovered, and formal attorney disciplinary charges were brought against him, a Louisiana-licensed attorney. In the ensuing disciplinary proceedings, Mr. Webb admitted his misconduct, but represented to this court that he was taking “sole financial responsibility” and“full responsibility” for the loan and was otherwise committed to “making right” what he had done. Shortly after the disciplinary order was issued, Mr. Webb returned to the district court where the community property partition was pending. There, Mr. Webb claimed that, although he personally incurred the $250,000 debt, responsibility for the loan should be an obligation shared by both Mr. and Mrs. Webb, rather than solely by Mr. Webb. The district court rejected Mr. Webb’s claim, finding that Mr. Webb’s representations in his attorney discipline case amounted to a judicial confession that he alone was responsible for the debt. Mr. Webb appealed, and the appellate court ruled in his favor by classifying the loan as a community obligation and ordering Mrs. Webb to personally reimburse Mr. Webb for loan payments he made after the community property regime was terminated. Mrs. Webb sought review by the Louisiana Supreme Court, arguing Mr. Webb's admission in his disciplinary hearing precluded him from making her partly responsible for his loan. Applying the doctrine of judicial estoppel, the Supreme Court held that in the community property litigation, Mr. Webb could not shift responsibility for his fraudulent loan to Mrs. Webb. View "Webb v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brandon Forvendel was injured in a multi-vehicle accident in 2013. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was driving a Chevrolet Equinox owned by him and insured under a policy issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”), which included uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. Plaintiff recovered the limits of his UM coverage under his State Farm policy. At the time of the 2013 accident, plaintiff lived in the household of his mother, Deborah Forvendel, who was also insured by State Farm. Plaintiff also sought to recover under his mother’s State Farm UM policy, which carried significantly higher policy limits. State Farm refused to allow him to recover under his mother's policy, citing the anti-stacking provisions of La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(c). In this case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the insurer waived its defenses to plaintiff’s current claim by paying on an earlier claim to him in error. The Court found the insurer did not waive its rights. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgments of the courts below. View "Forvendel v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the employer’s appeal, taken with devolutive appeal delays but outside of the suspensive appeal delays, was timely under the special provisions of La. R.S. 23:1310.5(C). While the Court acknowledged La. R.S. 23:1310.5 “is not a model of legislative clarity,” the Court broadly interpreted the statute to find nothing specified the time period in which this appeal have to be filed. The Court found the appeal should have been maintained as timely, but because the appeal was devolutive in nature, the judgment awarding benefits was subject to immediate execution. View "Jackson v. Family Dollar Stores of Louisiana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kerry Maggio was injured in an automobile accident when his vehicle was struck by a vehicle operated by James Parker, an employee of The Sandwich Kings, LLC d/b/a Jimmy Johns (“Sandwich Kings”). The vehicle operated by Parker was owned by Brenda Parker and insured by Louisiana Farm Bureau (“Farm Bureau”). Plaintiff filed a petition for damages naming as defendants: Parker; Sandwich Kings (contending that Parker was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident); Republic Vanguard (Sandwich King’s automobile insurer); and Metropolitan Property Casualty Insurance Company (plaintiff’s uninsured motorist insurer). Notably, plaintiff did not name Brenda Parker or Farm Bureau as defendants. Less than one month later, plaintiff entered into a “Final Release and Settlement of Claim” (“Release”) with Brenda Parker and Farm Bureau. In exchange for Farm Bureau’s $25,000 policy limits, plaintiff executed a release agreement. In this matter, which was at the summary judgment phase, the Louisiana Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether the settlement which purported to release “all other persons, firms, or corporations who are or might be liable” applied to defendants who were not direct parties to the settlement. The Court found that the defendants were not entitled to summary judgment, reversed the opinion of the court of appeal, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maggio v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review of this case to determine whether the lower courts erred in finding that the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney was not legally obligated and entitled to serve as “legal adviser to the [Parish C]ouncil, [Parish P]resident and all departments, offices and agencies, and represent the Parish government in legal proceedings.” On April 11, 2016, Applicant, Warren Montgomery, in his official capacity as District Attorney for St. Tammany Parish, filed suit against the St. Tammany Parish Government by and through the St. Tammany Parish Council, and Patricia "Pat" Brister in her official capacity as Parish President (collectively "Respondents"). Applicant sought declaratory relief; Respondents filed dilatory exceptions of prematurity and unauthorized use of summary proceeding, as well as peremptory exceptions of no cause of action and no right of action. Respondents also answered the petition by denying Applicant's claims and asserting several affirmative defenses. In the same pleading, Respondents filed a reconventional demand for declaratory relief that La. R.S. 42:261-263, La. R.S. 16:2 and Section 4-03 (A) of the St. Tammany Parish Home Rule Charter were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court found that the lower courts did, in fact, err, and reversed the trial court’s grant of Respondents' Motion for Summary Judgment. Furthermore, finding that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the Louisiana Constitution, the laws of the State, and the St. Tammany Parish Charter mandate that Applicant was the general attorney for St. Tammany Parish, the Court granted Applicant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. View "Montgomery v. St. Tammany Parish Government" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a City of New Orleans ordinance levying a gallonage tax based on volume upon dealers who handle high alcoholic content beverages was a valid exercise of its authority to levy and collect occupational license taxes within the meaning of La. Const. Art. VI, sec. 28. The trial court declared the ordinance unconstitutional. The Supreme Court found the portion of the ordinance at issue was not an unconstitutional exercise of the City’s taxing authority. Thus, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Beer Industry League of Louisiana v. City of New Orleans" on Justia Law

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The defendant surgeon ordered pre-operative tests including a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (“EKG”) before performing non-emergency gallbladder surgery on the plaintiff. However, defendant did not review the results of these tests prior to performing the surgery, but had he done so, the tests would have alerted him to potential issues with plaintiff’s heart necessitating the ordering of a cardiac consult prior to surgery. Although the surgery itself was successful and uneventful, some thirty or so hours after discharge, plaintiff suffered a heart attack and eventually had to undergo a heart transplant. Plaintiff and his wife brought suit against defendant alleging medical malpractice. The defendant surgeon settled, and the Louisiana Patients’ Compensation Fund (“PCF”) intervened. After a trial against the PCF, the jury declined to find plaintiffs had proven the surgeon’s failure to review the test results and to refer his patient to a cardiologist before performing the surgery had caused the patient to suffer the subsequent heart attack that ultimately necessitated a heart transplant. Instead, the jury found plaintiffs had proven the defendant’s breach of the standard of care had resulted in the loss of a less than even chance of a better outcome. The jury awarded plaintiffs lump sum general damages, which the trial court in its judgment made subject to the Medical Malpractice Act’s limitation on the total amount recoverable by plaintiffs, La. Rev. Stat. 40:1231.2. The court of appeal found legal error in what it deemed to be a “patently inconsistent” jury verdict in light of the verdict form, but it nonetheless found the jury’s determination that plaintiffs had proven a lost chance of a better outcome was clearly supported by the record. The court of appeal then awarded general damages (affirming the trial court’s award), but it also awarded special damages, including past medicals, future medicals, and lost wages, which it did not subject to the Medical Malpractice Act’s limitation on the total amount recoverable. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the court of appeal erred in its decision, reversed it, and reinstated the jury’s verdict, the award of lump sum general damages, and the trial court’s judgment. View "Burchfield v. Wright" on Justia Law

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The biological mother of a child placed under guardianship with the child’s paternal great-aunt filed a petition to terminate that guardianship and to regain custody of the child. Following a three-day trial, the district court terminated the guardianship and awarded joint custody of the child to the guardian and the biological mother, with the mother designated as the domiciliary custodian. On appeal, the court of appeal reversed the district court judgment, reinstated the guardianship, and remanded the case to the district court for purposes of establishing a visitation schedule for the mother. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to assess whether the correct legal standards were applied by the lower courts, and to review the correctness of the district court’s determination that the guardianship should be terminated. The Court held that the proper standard for determining whether an order of guardianship should be modified or terminated was statutorily prescribed by Article 724 of the Children’s Code, which, in this case, required proof by the movant/mother by “clear and convincing evidence” of “a substantial and material change in the circumstances of the guardian or child” because either “[c]ontinuation of the guardianship is so deleterious to the child as to justify a modification or termination of the relationship” or “the harm likely to be caused from a change in the guardianship is substantially outweighed by the advantages to the child of the modification.” Weighing the evidence in light of that evidentiary burden, the Court agreed with the court of appeal’s assessment that the district court erred in determining that the mother met her burden of proving the guardianship should be terminated. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reinstating the guardianship order. View "In re: L.M.M., JR." on Justia Law

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The Board of Ethics (“Board”) filed formal charges against respondents, Walter Monsour and Jordan Monsour. Respondents filed separate motions for summary judgment with the Ethics Adjudicatory Board (“EAB”), seeking dismissal of the charges and attaching exhibits in support of their motions for summary judgment. The Board opposed the motions and attached exhibits in support of its opposition. Respondents filed a reply memorandum, arguing the exhibits attached to the Board’s opposition did not constitute competent evidence because they were unsworn, unverified, and not self-proving. The EAB denied respondents’ objections to the Board’s exhibits and admitted them into evidence. At the end of the hearing, the EAB took the motion for summary judgment under advisement. Respondents sought supervisory review of the ruling admitting the exhibits into evidence. The court of appeal found the EAB erred in admitting the Board's exhibits, because these exhibits did not meet the requirements of La. Code Civ. P. arts. 966 and 967. Accordingly, the court reversed the EAB’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings. Two judges dissented in part, and would have allowed the Board, on remand, to submit competent evidence prior to a ruling on the motion for summary judgment. The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the evidence produced in connection with motions for summary judgment in these administrative proceedings had to conform to the same requirements applicable to civil proceedings. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal and remanded the case to the EAB for further proceedings. View "Board of Ethics in the Matter of Jordan Monsour & Walter Monsour" on Justia Law