Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether a stamped signature on an uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage rejection form, affixed by the administrative assistant of the corporate insured’s owner and president, complied with the statutory requirement that the UM form be signed by the named insured or his legal representative. Because the stamped signature was affixed on behalf of the legal representative and not by the legal representative himself, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeal that the lack of prior written authorization to the administrative assistant rendered the UM form invalid. View "Havard v. JeanLouis, et al." on Justia Law

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Lia Kazan (“Lia”) visited an Alexandria, Louisiana motel to meet some friends. During the course of her visit, she went went to the motel parking lot to retrieve something from her vehicle. Anthony Murray, another motel guest, exited his room and approached the vehicle with Lia inside. Audio from the camera footage recorded Lia screaming “stop,” “no,” and calling for help accompanied by repeated honking of the vehicle’s horn. Murray then started the ignition and, with Lia in the passenger seat, reversed out of the parking lot onto the service road. The vehicle was later found submerged in Lake Dubuisson – the bodies of Murray and Lia were recovered in the water. Lia’s death was classified as a homicidal drowning. Ali Kazan and Ebony Medlin filed suit, individually, and on behalf of their daughter, Lia (collectively “Plaintiffs”) against several parties, including the motel’s owner, Vitthal, LLC, and its insurer, Great Lakes Insurance Company SE (“Great Lakes”), seeking damages for Lia’s kidnapping and death. In response, Great Lakes filed a petition for declaratory judgment averring it had no obligation under the operable commercial general liability policy (“the CGL Policy”) to defend or indemnify the other defendants. Great Lakes moved for summary judgment on its petition arguing the CGL Policy contained an exclusion – specifically defining “assault,” “battery,” and “physical altercation” – which barred coverage for Lia’s kidnapping and death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether an insurance policy, by its own terms, excluded coverage for damages arising from a kidnapping resulting in death. The Court found the clear and unambiguous language of the relevant policy exclusion barred coverage. View "Kazan et al. v. Red Lion Hotels Corporation, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2016, Nucor Steel Louisiana, LLC submitted a tax refund claim to St. James Parish School Board and the St. James Parish Tax Agency (collectively the “Collector”). The claim alleged an overpayment of sales and use tax paid pursuant to a full contract price that was rebated. In 2018, the Collector issued a written denial of Nucor’s refund claim. Following the redetermination hearing, the Collector sent Nucor another letter denying the refund claim. Then, on May 24, 2018, just over two years after the Collector received the refund claim, Nucor appealed the denial to the Board of Tax Appeal (“BTA”). The Collector responded by filing peremptory exceptions of prescription, peremption, and res judicata, asserting that Nucor failed to timely appeal under La. R.S. 47:337.81(A)(2). The BTA granted the Collector’s exceptions, finding Paragraph (A)(2) provides “two alternative prescriptive periods for a taxpayer to appeal refund denial.” Because the Collector failed to render a decision within one year of Nucor’s refund claim being filed, Nucor had 180 days, or until July 26, 2017, to appeal. Thus, the BTA found Nucor’s May 24, 2018 appeal untimely. Nucor appealed. The court of appeal reversed, finding that Nucor’s appeal within 90 days of that decision was timely. The court of appeal also found the Collector’s statement to Nucor that it had “ninety (90) calendar days” to appeal amounted to a representation that Nucor relied upon to its detriment. Using the standard set forth in Suire v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, 04-1459 (La. 4/12/05), 907 So.2d 37, which only required a reasonable reliance on a representation, the court found the Collector estopped from arguing prescription. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the Collector’s writ application to determine the proper interpretation of the appeal periods in La. R.S. 47:337.81 and to determine the proper standard for evaluating the estoppel and detrimental reliance claims. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the trial court’s ruling on the exceptions. View "Nucor Steel Lousiana, LLC v. St. James Parish School Board et al." on Justia Law

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In 2018, plaintiffs Isiah and Chrishanna Smith filed a medical malpractice suit on behalf of their minor son, Mason Heath. Dr. Robert Russell, Minden Medical Center and staff, and Dr. Cristal Kirby were named defendants. The complaint alleged malpractice in connection with Mason’s circumcision performed by Dr. Russell at Minden Medical Center on August 18, 2015. Dr. Kirby subsequently treated Mason on September 2, 2015 and September 23, 2015. The child experienced complications with the circumcision site. After a second opinion, plaintiffs filed suit against Dr. Russell and the medical center. Dr. Russell and Minden Medical filed an exception of prescription, contending they only rendered care to Mason on August 18, 2015. Because the complaint was filed August 14, 2018, beyond the one-year limitation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:5628(A), they argued plaintiffs’ claim was prescribed on the face of the pleadings. Moreover, they urged that plaintiffs continually observed problems with the circumcision site, which required prescription steroid cream, and these facts constituted discovery, triggering prescription more than one year before the August 2018 filing. Dr. Kirby filed a separate exception of prescription. She asserted September 23, 2015 was her last contact with Mason; thus, the suit filed August 14, 2018 was prescribed on its face. Plaintiffs challenged the lower courts' ruling that their claim was prescribed. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding "plaintiffs did not sleep on their rights. They persistently cared for their child by bringing him to wellness visits and asking questions to ensure the circumcision site was properly healing. ... medical professionals assuaged their concerns and a reasonable explanation of post-circumcision healing existed. Plaintiffs filed their complaint within one year of discovery and within three years of the alleged act, omission, or neglect, making their claim timely pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:5628(A). We reverse the granting of the exception of prescription." View "In re: Medical Review Panel of Mason Heath" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Reginald Martin named truck driver Rodney Thomas, his employer Greer Logging, LLC, and its insurer National Liability and Fire Insurance Company as defendants in this personal injury case. Plaintiff alleged he and defendant Thomas were involved in a collision: Thomas was operating a 2016 Peterbilt tractor truck owned by Greer Logging and was backing into a driveway. Plaintiff alleged that following the accident he suffered from several injuries including head/facial contusions, multiple broken ribs, a fractured sternum, an open fracture of the tibial plateau, an open comminuted fracture of his left patella, and open wounds of the left leg, knee, and ankle. At issue in this motion for partial summary judgment was whether a plaintiff could pursue both a negligence cause of action against an employee for which the employer was vicariously liable, and a direct claim against the employer for its own negligence in hiring, supervision, training, and retention as well as a negligent entrustment claim, when the employer stipulated that the employee was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the injury. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that a plaintiff could maintain both claims even if the employer has stipulated to the course and scope of employment. The Court therefore reversed the partial summary judgment in favor of the employer which dismissed the claims asserted directly against it, and remanded to the district court. View "Martin v. Thomas et al." on Justia Law

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Vermilion Parish School Board (“VPSB”) filed suit in 2004, alleging oil and gas operations conducted pursuant to a 1935 mineral lease and a 1994 surface lease damaged Section 16 land. VPSB asserted causes of action for negligence, strict liability, unjust enrichment, trespass, breach of contract, and violations of Louisiana environmental laws. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted rehearing to reconsider its prior decision in Louisiana v. Louisiana Land and Exploration Co., 20-00685 (La. 6/30/21), _So.3d_. The case presented two main issues: (1) the proper interpretation of Act 312 relative to the award of damages for the evaluation or remediation of environmental damage; and (2) whether the strict liability tort claim prescribed. With the benefit of additional oral argument and briefing, the Court affirmed its original decree. View "Louisiana, et al. v. Louisiana Land & Exploration Co., et al." on Justia Law

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On November 21, 2017, Richard Bush presented to Saint Bernard Parish Hospital for depression and suicidal ideations. At the hospital, Dr. Miguel Aguilera treated and discharged him. Bush attempted re-admittance with the same complaints, but was refused re-admittance. Thereafter, Bush attempted suicide in the hospital bathroom. He was found alive and transported to University Hospital in New Orleans for treatment; however, he succumbed to his injuries from the suicide attempt and died on November 30, 2017. In November 2018, his wife, Patricia Bush, on behalf of herself, her daughters, Madalyn and Ashley Bush, and on behalf of the decedent, Richard Bush, filed a formal pro se complaint with the Patient Compensation Fund (“PCF”) to convene a medical review panel (“MRP”), naming Saint Bernard Parish Hospital and Dr. Aguilera for malpractice relating to Richard Bush's death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application in order to determine: (1) whether contra non valentem interrupted prescription; and (2) whether the court of appeal erred in relying on documents that were not entered as evidence and were not part of the record. The Court found that, while contra non valentem may interrupt prescription in a wrongful death claim in certain instances, it did not interrupt prescription in this case due to the fact that the court of appeal incorrectly considered documents that were not in evidence. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s ruling in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Medical Review Panel for the Claim of Richard Bush" on Justia Law

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This litigation arose from a medical malpractice suit brought by plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of their minor daughter, against Dr. Daryl Elias, Jr. and his insurer. Plaintiffs alleged Dr. Elias committed malpractice during the child’s delivery, causing a separated right shoulder and a broken clavicle. Plaintiffs also alleged the child suffered permanent injury when the five nerve roots of her brachial plexus were completely and partially avulsed from the spinal cord, causing her to lose the use of her right arm. At the conclusion of trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants, finding the treatment provided by Dr. Elias to the child did not fall below the applicable standard of care for an obstetrician gynecologist. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case for the primary purpose of addressing two narrow issues: (1) whether any errors in the district court’s evidentiary rulings interdicted the jury’s fact-finding process; and (2) if so, whether the court of appeal erred in reviewing the record de novo. The court of appeal found the district court committed prejudicial legal error in excluding the child's treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kozin’s testimony in part and permitting defendant's retained expert, Dr. Grimm, to testify. The Supreme Court found no error in the judgment of the court of appeal insofar as it reversed the district court’s ruling limiting Dr. Kozin from testifying as to the cause of the child’s injuries: "a review of Dr. Kozin’s excluded testimony reveals he did not render any opinions on whether Dr. Elias breached the standard of care or was otherwise negligent. Rather, he simply testified as to the cause of the child’s injury, explaining that based on his expertise, he was 'certain the force applied by the delivering physician led to this injury.'" The district court erred in restricting his testimony. However, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its great discretion in finding Dr. Grimm’s testimony was admissible under the standards set forth in La. Code Evid. art. 702 and Daubert/Foret. The court of appeal erred in reversing the district court’s evidentiary ruling. Furthermore, the Court held the court of appeal abused its discretion by undertaking a de novo review of the record rather than remanding the case for a new trial. In all other respects, the judgment of the court of appeal was vacated, and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "LaBauve, et al. v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether the district court had jurisdiction over a claim for penalties against an insurer arising from its failure to provide a defense in workers’ compensation proceedings, and, if so, whether the insurer violated its duties of good faith and fair dealing, thereby making it liable for damages and penalties. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded the district court had jurisdiction over the claim and correctly found that the insurer breached its duties to its insured. However, the Court found the district court’s damage award rose to the level of an abuse of discretion. The judgment of the court of appeal was amended to award damages in favor of Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, LLC and against Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation in the total amount of $61,655.00, representing $20,550.00 in special damages and $41,100.00 in penalties. View "Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, LLC v. Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation" on Justia Law

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In 2015, plaintiff Ronald Hicks was a passenger in a heavy-duty flatbed truck when it was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Robert Harger, Jr., who was traveling at approximately 60-65 mph and did not brake before impact. Plaintiff was treated on 79 occasions with several orthopedic and pain management specialists and surgeons and underwent 13 separate procedures. Relevant here, plaintiff was initially examined by Dr. Jason Smith, an orthopedic spine surgeon, to whom he was referred in conjunction with his worker’s compensation plan. Dr. Smith examined plaintiff and found no evidence of obvious trauma resulting from the accident. Instead, he determined the condition of plaintiff’s lower back was indicative of preexisting degenerative disc disease that was aggravated by the accident. While Dr. Smith did not believe plaintiff exaggerated his pain, he also did not believe plaintiff was a candidate for surgery. Plaintiff ceased treatment with Dr. Smith on January 6, 2017. Plaintiff was thereafter referred by his attorney to Dr. Jorge Isaza, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. At the time of his 2017 deposition, Dr. Isaza recommended cervical surgery but had difficulty identifying the primary source of plaintiff’s lumbar pain and did not definitively suggest lumbar surgery. Dr. Isaza linked the collision to plaintiff’s injuries. In November 2017, defendants moved to compel an additional medical examination (“AME”) under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 1464. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the writ in this case to examine the meaning of the requirement of “good cause” in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 1464. The Court held that a showing of “good cause” under article 1464 required the moving party establish a reasonable nexus between the requested examination and the condition in controversy. The Court found the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendants’ motion to compel an additional medical examination in this case. Judgment was therefore reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Hicks v. USAA General Indemnity Co., et al." on Justia Law