Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether the court of appeal erred in reversing the trial court’s ruling granting plaintiff’s special motion to strike defendant’s reconventional demand for defamation, pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971 (the "anti-SLAPP" statute), where the appellate court found that plaintiff’s petition did not involve a “public issue.” Philip Shelton, M.D. married Judith Shelton in 2001. During their marriage, the couple each owned a life insurance policy that named the other as the beneficiary. At some point, Mrs. Shelton was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatorenal Syndrome (as a result of alcoholism. In July 2011, Mrs. Shelton was admitted to Ochsner Baptist Medical Center for treatment and was soon discharged to Woldenberg Village, an inpatient assisted living facility. Mrs. Shelton died on December 31, 2011, at the age of 64. After Mrs. Shelton's death, Dr. Shelton learned that she had changed her beneficiary to her personal assistant/paralegal/friend, Nancy Pavon. In November 2013, Dr. Shelton filed a Petition to Nullify Change of Beneficiary, alleging Mrs. Shelton had lacked the capacity to execute a change of beneficiary form due to her poor health, including dementia, confusion, disorientation, and personality changes. Alternatively, he alleged Mrs. Shelton's signature on the change of beneficiary form was a forgery or had been obtained through undue influence by Pavon. In response, Pavon filed an answer and reconventional demand alleging Dr. Shelton's petition constituted defamation per se. Dr. Shelton filed a Special Motion to Strike pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971. Pavon opposed the motion, arguing that it should have been dismissed as a matter of law because Dr. Shelton’s petition to nullify did not involve a public issue. She also argued that a motion to strike was not the proper mechanism to dismiss her defamation claim. The trial court granted Dr. SHelton's special motion to strike. The Supreme Court found the court of appeal was correct in reversing the trial court’s ruling. The Supreme Court held that La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971(F)(1)(a) required statements had to be "in furtherance of a person’s right of petition or free speech ... in connection with a public issue.” View "Shelton v. Pavon" on Justia Law

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Ron Warren, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Derek Hebert, filed a petition for damages seeking to recover for the wrongful death of his son in a recreational boating accident under general maritime law and products liability. A jury found the defendant, Teleflex, Inc. liable under the plaintiff’s failure to warn theory of the case and awarded compensatory damages of $125,000 and punitive damages of $23,000,000. The court of appeal affirmed. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari mainly to review whether the trial court properly granted the plaintiff a new trial and whether the award of punitive damages was excessive and resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to constitutional due process. After reviewing the record and the applicable law in this case, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court’s rulings; however, the Court did find the award of punitive damages was excessive and resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to constitutional due process. View "Warren v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The workers’ compensation claimant in this case, Paula Clavier, injured her neck, shoulder, and back while attempting to lift what she thought was a lightweight box, but which actually contained a heavy cast iron sink. The accident occurred within the course and scope of her employment with Coburn Supply Co., Inc. (“Coburn”). Clavier sought medical treatment on the day of the accident, and she continued to receive treatment as of the hearing date. A work status report by Clavier’s treating physician, defendants sought to have her examined by a physician of their choice. Clavier refused to attend a functional capacity evaluation (FCE), scheduled by defendants at the Fontana Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Defendants filed a “Motion to Compel Functional Capacity Evaluation or Alternatively to Reduce Benefits or in the Further Alternative for Appointment of an independent medical evaluation (IME). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review to determine whether an employee has a right to select a non-physician medical provider to perform an FCE at the employer’s expense for the purpose of contesting the results of a prior FCE that was performed by an employer-referred physical therapist. An Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) ruled in defendants’ favor, finding Clavier could not compel defendants to pay for an FCE by a physical therapist of her choosing. Finding no reversible error in the OWC judge’s ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Clavier v. Coburn Supply Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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A workers’ compensation claimant sought review of a judgment from the Office of Workers’ Compensation affirming the decision of the Medical Director denying his physician’s request for trial of a spinal cord stimulator. The court of appeal affirmed the ruling of the Office of Workers’ Compensation that the claimant had failed to show the Medical Director’s decision was not in accordance with the Medical Treatment Guidelines. Because the Supreme Court found the Medical Director and the Office of Workers’ Compensation misinterpreted the language of Louisiana Administrative Code, and thus misapplied the Medical Treatment Guidelines on neurostimulation to the claimant’s case, it reversed the lower court’s ruling and found the Office of Workers’ Compensation erred in affirming the decision of the Medical Director. View "Gulley v. Hope Youth Ranch" on Justia Law

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In 2003, plaintiff Kimberly Thibodeaux became pregnant with her fourth child. Dr. James Donnell was her obstetrician-gynecologist throughout her pregnancy. During the course of the pregnancy, plaintiff was diagnosed with complete placenta previa and, in mid-November, at approximately 29 weeks pregnant, she was hospitalized for four days. Upon Dr. Donnell’s referral, she consulted a maternal/fetal medicine specialist who handled high risk pregnancies; the specialist recommended rest, limited activity, and delivery of plaintiff’s child at 36-37 weeks gestation. Plaintiff returned to the hospital with renewed vaginal bleeding and contractions. Dr. Donnell delivered plaintiff’s child via cesarean section. Shortly after the baby’s delivery, Dr. Donnell performed an emergency cesarean hysterectomy, which entailed removal of plaintiff’s uterus and cervix. After completing the hysterectomy, and while preparing to close plaintiff’s abdomen, Dr. Donnell discovered a large laceration to her bladder, which he repaired himself. After completing the surgery, Dr. Donnell ordered a test to determine if the bladder repair was successful. The test revealed that the bladder sutures were obstructing plaintiff’s ureters, the tubes that drain urine from the kidney into the bladder. This obstruction was then confirmed by a cystoscopy performed by a urologist, Dr. Robert Alexander, consulted by Dr. Donnell. The same day as the birth and cesarean hysterectomy, Dr. Alexander reopened plaintiff’s abdomen, removed the bladder sutures to free the ureters, and re-repaired the bladder laceration. Plaintiff followed up again with Dr. Alexander in late April 2004. Although her bladder healed, plaintiff continued to see Dr. Alexander for three years with irritative bladder symptoms, including urinary frequency every 30-60 minutes, urgency, urine leakage, painful urination, painful sexual intercourse, urination during sexual intercourse, excessive nighttime urination, and abdominal pain. Dr. Alexander diagnosed her with interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, and prescribed medications, none of which relieved plaintiff’s symptoms. According to Dr. Alexander, plaintiff’s diminished bladder capacity was permanent. The Supreme Court granted review of this case to determine whether the court of appeal properly assessed damages under the principles set forth in “Coco v. Winston Industries Inc.,” (341 So. 2d 332 (La. 1976)). The Court found that, because the court of appeal found manifest error in the jury’s factual findings, the appellate court should have instead performed a de novo review of damages under the principles outlined in “Mart v. Hill,” (505 So. 2d 1120 (La. 1987)). Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeal and remanded back to that court for reconsideration under the proper caselaw precedent. View "Thibodeaux v. Donnell" on Justia Law

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Customers of an indoor trampoline park, of Sky Zone Lafayette, must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” document (“Agreement”) prior to entering the facility. The Agreement contains a clause waiving the participant’s right to trial and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff, James Duhon, was such a customer, and was injured in the course of participating in the park’s activities. After plaintiff filed suit seeking damages, Sky Zone moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Agreement. The district court overruled Sky Zone’s exception, but the court of appeal reversed, finding the arbitration provision should be enforced. After review, the Supreme Court found that the arbitration clause in the Sky Zone agreement was adhesionary and therefore unenforceable. View "Duhon v. Activelaf, LLC" on Justia Law

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Customers of an indoor trampoline park, of Sky Zone Lafayette, must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” document (“Agreement”) prior to entering the facility. The Agreement contains a clause waiving the participant’s right to trial and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff Theresa Alicea executed the Agreement prior to her husband, Roger Alicea, taking their minor sons to Sky Zone. The Aliceas’ son, Logan, was injured while jumping on a trampoline. The Aliceas filed suit against Sky Zone, individually and on behalf of Logan. Sky Zone moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Agreement. The district court overruled Sky Zone’s exception and the court of appeal denied Sky Zone’s writ application. After review, the Supreme Court held the arbitration clause in the Sky Zone agreement was adhesionary and therefore unenforceable. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the rulings of the lower courts. View "Alicea v. Activelaf, LLC" on Justia Law