Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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This dispute over uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage arose from a motor vehicle accident on Louisiana Highway 6 near Natchitoches. Martin Baack, an employee of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, was driving his work vehicle when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Michael McIntosh. The vehicle Baack was driving belonged to PPC Transportation Company. Both Pilgrim’s Pride and PPC Transportation were subsidiaries of JBS USA Holdings, Inc. (“JBS”). McIntosh was determined to be solely at fault for the accident and pled guilty to improper lane usage. Baack and his wife filed suit individually and on behalf of their minor daughter naming as defendants McIntosh, his insurer, and Zurich American Insurance Company (“Zurich”) in its capacity as the UM provider for PPC Transportation’s vehicle. In JBS’s policy with Zurich, PPC Transportation was listed as a Broad Named Insured. The Baacks sought damages under Zurich’s UM coverage as well as penalties and attorney fees based on Zurich’s failure to timely settle the claim. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted consolidated writs to determine whether an insured’s initial UM coverage waiver remains valid where, upon consecutive renewals, the insured submitted new signed and dated UM forms without initialing the blanks provided to reject UM coverage. Based on the Court's interpretation of the UM statute, it found such a subsequently submitted form changes the prior rejection and operated to provide UM coverage. Additionally, finding no error in the quantum of damages and denial of penalties and attorney fees by the court of appeal, the Court affirmed. View "Baack v. McIntosh et al." on Justia Law

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James Conway Liner, III (“Mr. Liner”) executed two notarial testaments: one in 2013 and another in 2015 (purporting to revoke all prior testaments). The 2013 testament, executed pursuant to La. C.C. art. 1577 for testators who were able to read and sign their name, divided Mr. Liner’s property equally amongst his three children: James Conway Liner, IV (“Conway”), Jeffrey Liner (“Jeff”), and Laura Liner Centola (“Laura”). The 2015 testament excluded Conway from any inheritance and was executed pursuant to La. C.C. art. 1579 for a testator who was unable to read regardless of whether they can sign their own name. Mr. Liner died in 2018. Jeff and Laura filed a petition to probate the 2015 testament. Conway intervened and sought to have the 2015 testament declared null under various theories including an allegedly defective attestation clause. As it was at the original hearing, the primary issue presented was whether the attestation clause verifying that Mr. Liner declared he “signed” the testament was substantially similar to the La. C.C. art. 1579 requirement that the attestation clause verify a testator declared he signed his name “at the end” and “on each other separate page” of the testament. The Louisiana Supreme Court also addressed Conway’s additional arguments as to whether the attestation clause reflected an inconsistency in the notary both following and reading the testament and whether the attestation clause failed to establish that Mr. Liner declared he heard the reading of the will in the presence of the notary and the witnesses. Following a careful review of the law, the Supreme Court vacated its original decree in this case, affirmed the decision of the court of appeal (reversed the trial court's nullification of the 2015 testament), and clarified the analytical framework for determining whether a notarial will is in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Civil Code. View "Succession of James Conway Liner, III" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brenda Bergeron, individually and on behalf of her husband, Donald Bergeron, filed a medical malpractice claim against Donald Richardson, M.D. and Paul Hubbell, III, M.D. A medical review panel unanimously found Defendants breached the standard of care. Two of the three panel members found Defendants caused Mr. Bergeron’s pain, illness, and death. Plaintiff then filed wrongful death and survival actions against Defendants. Nearly six years later, Defendants filed a motion for bond for cost pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 13:4522. Plaintiff opposed the motion on several grounds, namely : (1) the motion was untimely under the plain language of the statute; (2) the costs claimed by Defendants were expenses, not actual taxable costs; and (3) she challenged the constitutionality of the statute. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion for bond for cost, finding it untimely. The trial court concluded Louisiana Revised Statutes 13:4522 precluded a motion for a cost bond after the defendant’s answer is filed. Because the motion was denied, the trial court found the constitutional claim moot. The Court of Appeal reversed, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, concurring with the trial court that defendants' motion for bond for costs was untimely. View "Bergeron v. Richardson et al." on Justia Law

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Arising under the 2006 version of La. R.S. 30:29 (referred to as Act 312), this oilfield remediation case involved the Vermilion Parish School Board (“VPSB”), individually and on behalf of the State of Louisiana, as petitioner, and Union Oil Company of California, Union Exploration Partners (collectively, “UNOCAL”), Chevron U.S.A., Inc., Chevron Midcontinent LP, and Carrollton Resources, LLC as defendants. Although the exact date of VPSB’s knowledge of contamination to the land was disputed, it was clear that VPSB became aware of such sometime in 2003 or 2004. In September 2004, VPSB filed a petition, urging causes of action for negligence, strict liability, unjust enrichment, trespass, breach of contract, and violations of Louisiana environmental laws. VPSB sought damages to cover the cost of evaluating and remediating the alleged damage and contamination to the property. It also sought damages for diminution of the property value, mental anguish, inconvenience, punitive damages, and stigma damages. UNOCAL sought reversal of the lower courts’ finding that VPSB’s strict liability claim was not prescribed. UNOCAL also contested the court of appeal’s ruling that the jury verdict was inconsistent and its remand for a new trial. Finding UNOCAL failed to prove that VPSB’s strict liability cause of action was factually prescribed, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s ruling on prescription, but on alternative grounds. Finding the jury was improperly allowed to decide issues reserved solely for the trial court, and cognizant the extraneous instructions and verdict interrogatories permeated the jury’s consideration of the verdict as a whole, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s judgment and affirmed the court of appeal’s remand for new trial. View "Louisiana v. Louisiana Land & Exploration Co. et al." on Justia Law

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Because the Louisiana Supreme Court found in its original opinion that plaintiffs had a right of action under La. C.C. arts. 2315.1 and 2315.2, their constitutional challenge was pretermitted and “that part of the district court judgment declaring [these code articles and La. C.C. art. 199 to be] unconstitutional as applied to children given in adoption” was vacated. Having found on rehearing that the codal analysis of La. C.C. arts. 2315.1, 2315.2 and 199 foreclosed a right of action to the plaintiff children, who were given in adoption, for the death of their biological parent and half-siblings, the Supreme Court was called on to address the propriety of the district court’s declaration that La. C.C. arts. 2315.1, 2315.2, and 199 are “unconstitutional as applied to children given in adoption.” The Court found a rational basis existed for limiting the categories of eligible claimants in La. C.C. arts. 2315.1 and 2315.2 to those who “are likely to be most affected by the death of the deceased.” Children given in adoption “have moved into a new parental relationship, becoming children ‘by adoption,’ who are eligible claimants in the unfortunate occurrence of the tortious death of their adoptive parents. Likewise, the transfer of children into a new parental unit as children ‘by adoption’ terminates, for purposes of wrongful death and survival actions, any connection between the ‘children given in adoption’ and any biological siblings who were not ‘given in adoption.’” For these reasons, the district court legally erred in finding that the fact that Daniel Goins and David Watts were adopted did not prevent them from bringing survival and wrongful death claims for the deaths of their biological father and biological half-siblings and in overruling the defendant’s exception raising the objection of no right of action. The Supreme Court's original decree was vacated and the district court's judgment was reversed. Judgment was entered sustaining the defendant insurance company's peremptory exception raising the objection of no right of action, and dismissing the claims that were the subject of this exception. View "Rismiller et al. v. Gemini Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Bryant Walker was employed as an eighteen-wheeler tractor-trailer driver for BlueLinx Corporation (“BlueLinx”). Walker was attempting to make a left turn into the driveway of BlueLinx’s facility: he activated his left turn signal, and stopped his tractor-trailer in the left lane, approximately sixty feet from a break in the median, in order to wait for another vehicle to exit the driveway. Before Walker could make his turn, his tractor-trailer was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Kunta Hester. Hester died as a result of the accident. Hester’s survivors filed the instant suit against Walker, BlueLinx, and its insurer, alleging defendants breached their duty to Hester because Walker negligently stopped his vehicle on a public roadway in violation of La. R.S. 32:141(A). At issue in this case was whether defendants violated any duty to plaintiffs under the provisions of La. R.S. 32:141(A), which prohibited the stopping or parking of a vehicle in the travelled portion of a roadway. The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded defendants were entitled to summary judgment: plaintiffs failed to rebut the presumption that Hester was at fault for the accident. View "Hester v. Walker et al." on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted review on whether a suit against the state, in which plaintiff fails to request service within 90 days and which was dismissed for insufficient service of process, interrupts prescription on the second suit filed before dismissal of the first. The Supreme Court held that the plain language of La. R.S. 13:5107(D)(3) made clear that plaintiff’s second suit was untimely and the first suit did not interrupt or suspend prescription as to the state defendants. Accordingly, because the state defendants’ exception of prescription should have been granted, the trial court’s ruling denying the exception of prescription was reversed. View "Davis v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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This case involved a defamation claim brought by the executive director of a public agency against the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor arising out of statements appearing in two audit reports and the summaries which accompanied the release of those audit reports. Plaintiff claimed the audits cast his conduct in connection with his duties at the agency in a defamatory light. The defendants moved for summary judgment, but the district court denied the motion, finding the existence of genuine issues of material fact. The court of appeal denied writs. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari, primarily to determine whether the lower courts erred in concluding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. Finding there were no genuine issues of material fact, and that the questions presented were all questions of law, the Supreme Court further found that the statements were not actionable as a matter of law, but rather statements of opinion relating to matters of public concern that did not carry a provably false factual connotation. As such, the statements were entitled to full constitutional protection. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the lower courts and granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Johnson v. Purpera" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against two defendants: a property owner and her alleged liability insurer. The insurer was served with the petition, but plaintiff withheld service on the property owner. The insurer filed an answer on its own behalf within three years of suit being filed, but no action was taken in the suit by any party relative to the property owner within that three years. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether plaintiff’s action against the property owner was abandoned pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 561(A)(1). The court of appeal found the filing of an answer by the insurer within the three-year abandonment period was effective to interrupt the abandonment period as to the property owner. The Supreme Court held the filing of the insurer’s answer did not serve to interrupt the abandonment period as to the property owner; therefore the appellate court was reversed because plaintiff’s original action against the property owner was abandoned by operation of law. However, the Court found plaintiff’s underlying claims against the property owner, that were subsequently reasserted by amended petition, were not necessarily prescribed due to the potential interruption of prescription resulting from the pending suit against an alleged solidary obligor. Because a determination regarding prescription could not be made based on the existing record, the court of appeal’s ruling on the property owner’s exception of prescription was affirmed, and the matter remanded to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on that exception. View "Williams v. Foremost Ins. Co. et al." on Justia Law

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In October 2012, plaintiff Donna Brown filed a complaint with the Louisiana Division of Administration against Dr. Ralph Chesson. Subsequently, she was notified of Dr. Chesson’s status as a qualified state health care provider and a medical review panel was convened. After the medical review panel rendered its opinion in favor of Dr. Chesson, Brown filed a petition for damages solely against Dr. Chesson in 2015. In the petition she alleged medical malpractice during a 2011 surgical procedure and requested service on Dr. Chesson at his office. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether it was sufficient to request service solely on a qualified state health care provider when that individual was the only named defendant in a medical malpractice suit. Specifically, whether plaintiff’s request for service and citation within ninety days from the commencement of this suit on only the defendant physician satisfied the statutory requirements for service on a state employee. The Supreme Court found that the service was sufficient and the court of appeal erred in sustaining the exceptions of insufficiency of citation and service of process. View "Brown v. Chesson" on Justia Law