Justia Louisiana Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Fecke v. Bd. of Supervisors Louisiana St. Univ. & Agricultural & Mech. College
Plaintiffs Brandy Fecke, and her parents Stephen and Karen Fecke, and the defendant, the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College (“LSU Board”), sought review of the court of appeal’s judgment. In 2008, Brandy, a 23-year-old, senior at LSU, went to an indoor rock climbing facility located at the LSU Recreation Center (“Rec Center”) to fulfill a compulsory rock climbing assignment for an Outdoor Living Skills Activity course. Upon arrival, Brandy executed the “Rock Wall Participation Agreement” required by LSU. After instruction and a climbing demonstration by the Rec Center employees, Brandy successfully climbed the wall. While descending, however, she fell, landing on her left foot and fractured the talus bone in her ankle. As a result of the injury, Brandy underwent three surgeries and required additional surgery, including either a permanent ankle fusion or ankle replacement. The Feckes filed a petition for damages against the LSU Board. Following a trial, the jury found the LSU Board 75% and Brandy 25% at fault, and awarded Brandy total damages of $1,925,392.72, and Karen Fecke $50,000.00 for loss of consortium. The LSU Board appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed in part, amended in part, and affirmed as amended the trial court judgment. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to interpret specific provisions within the Louisiana Governmental Claims Act, including La. Rev. Stat. 39:1533.22, and to resolve three issues: (1) whether plaintiff was entitled to legal interest on an award for future medical care paid directly to the health care provider from the Future Medical Care Fund (“FMCF”); (2) whether plaintiff was entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs from an award for future medical care prior to its placement into the FMCF; and (3) whether plaintiff, who was unemployed at the time of the injury, was entitled to recover the loss of future earnings. After review, the Supreme Court held: a plaintiff who is awarded future medical care pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. 13:5106(B)(3)(c) was not entitled to legal interest on the award and could not recover attorney’s fees or costs from the award prior to its placement into the FMCF. Furthermore, the Court held that a plaintiff who was unemployed at the time of the injury could recover the loss of future earnings, as defined in La. Rev. Stat. 13:5106(D)(2). View "Fecke v. Bd. of Supervisors Louisiana St. Univ. & Agricultural & Mech. College" on Justia Law
Arceneaux v Amstar Corp.
The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether the duty to defend in long latency disease cases could be prorated between an insurer and its insured when occurrence-based policies provide coverage for only a portion of the time during which exposure occurred. In the underlying Arceneaux suit, plaintiffs alleged that they suffered hearing loss from exposure to unreasonably loud noise in the course of their work at American Sugar’s refinery in Arabi, Louisiana. Two sets of plaintiffs, the Barbe plaintiffs and the Waguespack plaintiffs, filed suit against American Sugar in 2006. These suits were consolidated with the Arceneaux action, which was filed in 1999 against American Sugar’s predecessor, Tate & Lyle North American Sugars, Inc. This opinion concerned only the Barbe and Waguespack plaintiffs, and not the Arceneaux plaintiffs whose claims had been litigated extensively in the trial court, the court of appeal, and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Continental Casualty Company argued that defense costs should have been prorated among insurers and the insured if there were periods of non-coverage. American Sugar Refining, Inc. claimed that the duty to defend as agreed upon in the policy provided for a complete defense so long as the duty to defend attached, even if some claims fell outside of coverage. The Supreme Court held that the duty to defend should have been prorated in this case based upon policy language. View "Arceneaux v Amstar Corp." on Justia Law
Dupuy v. NMC Operating Company, LLC d/b/a Spine Hospital of Louisiana
This case arose from post-operative injuries plaintiff Richard Dupuy sustained based on a hospital’s alleged failure to properly maintain and service equipment utilized in the sterilization of surgical instruments. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the plaintiffs’ claims that the hospital failed to properly maintain and service equipment utilized in the sterilization of surgical instruments fell within the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”). The Supreme Court concluded the claims did fall within the MMA and reversed the ruling of the district court which held to the contrary. View "Dupuy v. NMC Operating Company, LLC d/b/a Spine Hospital of Louisiana" on Justia Law
Arrant v. Wayne Acree PLS, Inc.
The issue in this appeal centered on whether a statutory prescriptive period could be shortened by an administrative rule. This issue arose in a workers’ compensation case where the hearing officer refused to consider the worker’s request to have medically recommended magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of his lumbar spine because the worker failed to appeal the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration medical director’s decision denying his request for medical treatment within the 15-day time period required by an administrative rule. In so doing, the hearing officer sustained defendants’ peremptory exception of prescription. After review, the Supreme Court found the hearing officer erred as a matter of law. The Court therefore reversed and vacated in part that portion of the judgment sustaining the defendants’ peremptory exception of prescription, and the case was remanded for the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) to consider the merits of the worker’s claim that the medical director failed to appropriately apply the medical treatment guidelines in denying the lumbar spine MRI requested by the worker’s orthopedic surgeon. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Arrant v. Wayne Acree PLS, Inc." on Justia Law
Prevo v. Louisiana
Plaintiff Meiko Prevo was arrested in April 2000 in East Baton Rouge Parish for felony crime against nature. Plaintiff ultimately pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to ninety days in jail, suspended, and placed on probation for a period of one year, which she successfully completed. Plaintiff was not required to register as a sex offender based on her conviction for misdemeanor criminal mischief. In September 2008, plaintiff was again arrested and charged with distribution of cocaine. She pleaded guilty, received a hard labor suspended sentence, and was placed probation for a period of five years with the State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety Division of Probation and Parole. Thereafter, plaintiff reported to her probation officer, David Phillips. Officer Phillips reviewed plaintiff’s criminal history which identified her as a sex offender based on a disposition for crime against nature in April 2000. He also relied on an East Baton Rouge Parish “conviction notification” which showed she was convicted of crime against nature. Based on this information, Officer Phillips advised plaintiff that she was required to register as a sex offender based on what he understood to be her earlier 2000 conviction, and if she failed to do so, she would be sent to jail to serve her five-year sentence. Plaintiff objected to being required to register as a sex offender. Plaintiff registered as a sex offender. On several occasions after registering, plaintiff continued to ask Officer Phillips to further investigate her case, claiming each time that she was not a sex offender and should not have to be registered. According to plaintiff, Officer Phillips took no action on her requests. Plaintiff obtained a copy of her criminal records, confirming she had been convicted of criminal mischief. Assigned a new probation officer, Mike Ware, plaintiff informed him that she had not been convicted of crime against nature and was erroneously required to register as a sex offender. Officer Ware investigated plaintiff’s allegations and obtained information from the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court showing plaintiff’s guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. Officer Ware informed plaintiff of his findings and began the process of having her removed from the sex offender registry. Plaintiff thereafter filed suit against several defendants, including the State of Louisiana, Through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Division of Probation and Parole, alleging that she was "coerced" to register as a sex offender and suffered significant injury as a result. After discovery, the State filed a peremptory exception arguing plaintiff’s petition sounded in tort and was subject to a one-year prescriptive period. A five-judge panel of the court of appeal, with two judges dissenting, reversed the judgment of the district court insofar as it granted the State’s exception of prescription. The State appealed and reversed, finding that the district court was correct in its judgment. View "Prevo v. Louisiana" on Justia Law
Thompson v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc.
Plaintiff Patricia Thompson was injured when she slipped and fell in a puddle of water while shopping at a Winn-Dixie store. Plaintiff filed suit against Winn-Dixie, which in turn filed a third party demand against Southern Cleaning Services, Inc. (“SCSI”) which was contracted to provide floor care and janitorial services to Winn-Dixie. SCSI filed a third party claim against its subcontractor for those services, KAP Cleaning Services, Inc. (“KAP”). Following a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, finding KAP 70% at fault and Winn-Dixie 30% at fault. On appeal, the court amended the district court’s judgment holding that Winn-Dixie was statutorily 100% at fault. Winn-Dixie appealed. After a review of the law and record, the Supreme Court found the court of appeal erred in amending the trial court’s judgment to assign 100% fault to Winn-Dixie. The Court found the jury’s allocation of 30% fault to Winn-Dixie and 70% fault to KAP to be supported by the record. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal as to apportionment of liability and reinstated the district court’s judgment on the jury’s allocation of fault. View "Thompson v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc." on Justia Law
Hoffman v. 21st Century North America Insurance Co.
In October 2010, Eddie Hoffman was injured when his vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Carolyn Elzy. Hoffman filed suit against Ms. Elzy and her insurer, 21st Century North America Insurance Company for damages allegedly resulting from the accident. This case presented with a question of first impression for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review as to whether a write-off from a medical provider, negotiated by plaintiff's attorney, could be considered a collateral source from which the tortfeasor receives no set-off. Applying Louisiana law and the principles set forth in our Civil Code, the Court found that such a write-off did not fall within the scope of the collateral source rule. View "Hoffman v. 21st Century North America Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Reynolds v. Bordelon
On March 15, 2008, a multi-vehicle accident occurred in St. Tammany Parish. Robert J. Bordelon, III is alleged to have caused the accident when he swerved two separate times from the left lane of traffic to the right lane, colliding with two vehicles. The second collision involved plaintiff Richard Reynolds, who was driving a 2003 Infiniti G35S, which was manufactured by Nissan North America. After the initial impact, plaintiff was pushed into another vehicle and came to rest in a ditch. The accident caused plaintiff to sustain serious injuries. Plaintiff filed suit against Bordelon and other defendants. With regard to Nissan, plaintiff asserted claims under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for the failure of the air bags to deploy and/or operate. Specifically, he alleged the Infiniti was defective: (1) due to a construction or composition defect; (2) due to a design defect; (3) for failure to contain an adequate warning; and (4) for failure to conform to an express warranty. Nissan moved for summary judgment, which was ultimately granted. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the LPLA claim. But finding no reversible error, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed. View "Reynolds v. Bordelon" on Justia Law
Reynolds v. Bordelon
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether Louisiana recognized the tort of "negligent spoliation." On March 15, 2008, a multi-vehicle accident occurred in St. Tammany Parish. Plaintiff Richard Reynolds, sustained injuries and filed suit against Robert Bordelon, III, the driver alleged to have caused the accident. Plaintiff also asserted claims under the Louisiana Products Liability Act against Nissan North America, the alleged manufacturer and distributer of the plaintiff’s 2003 Infiniti G35, for failure of the airbag to deploy. Additionally, plaintiff’s petition alleged that his insurer, Automobile Club Inter-Insurance Exchange (“ACIIE”) and the custodian of his vehicle after the accident, Insurance Auto Auctions Corporation (“IAA”), failed to preserve his vehicle for inspection purposes to determine whether any defects existed, despite being put on notice of the need for preservation. ACIIE and IAA each filed exceptions of no cause of action, arguing a claim of spoliation of evidence requires “an intentional destruction of evidence for the purpose of depriving opposing parties of its use” and the petition contained no allegation of an intentional act by ACIIE or IAA. The trial court sustained the exception but allowed the plaintiff to amend his petition within fifteen days to state a cause of action pursuant to La.Code Civ.P. art. 934. In response, ACIIE and IAA again filed exceptions of no cause of action, and ACIIE filed a motion for summary judgment, in the alternative. The trial court denied the exceptions and the motion for summary judgment in light of an opinion recently released by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, which discussed, in dicta, the theory of "negligent spoliation." The court of appeal denied writs, with one judge on the panel noting the court "ha[d] not issued a studied opinion regarding whether a cause of action exists for negligent spoliation of evidence." A later decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeal was released, wherein the concept of negligent spoliation was rejected, prompting ACIIE and IAA to renew their exceptions of no cause of action. After its review, the Louisiana Court held that no cause of action existed for negligent spoliation of evidence. "Regardless of any alleged source of the duty, whether general or specific, public policy in our state precludes the existence of a duty to preserve evidence. Thus, there is no tort. Alternative avenues of recourse are available within Louisiana’s evidentiary, discovery, and contractual laws." View "Reynolds v. Bordelon" on Justia Law
Snider v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co.
In 2007, Clyde Snider, Jr. was hospitalized for a suspected myocardial infarction. He would later get surgery and be given a pacemaker. Following up on an unrelated issue, Snider's treating doctors found infection at the site of the pacemaker. The doctor who recommended implantation of the pacemaker was found to have rushed the decision to give Snider the pacemaker. "Except for the relatively minor complication of a hematoma, and the surgical scar after pacemaker extraction," a medical review panel found no evidence of any long term, major injury to Snider. Snider sued the treating doctor and his liability insurer for damages arising out of the doctor's alleged negligence in the implantation of the pacemaker. A jury later found that the doctor did not breach the appropriate standard of care in Snider's medical negligence action, which Snider appealed. Finding that the jury's verdict was supported by the evidence and was not clearly wrong, the Supreme Court affirmed the verdict. View "Snider v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law