Justia Louisiana Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Certiorari was granted in this case to resolve a split in the decisions of the Louisiana courts of appeal regarding the relationship between La. C.C.P. art. 425 and the res judicata statutes, La. R.S. 13:4231 and 13:4232. Particularly, the Supreme Court considered whether Article 425 was an independent claim preclusion provision apart from res judicata such that identity of parties was not required to preclude a subsequent suit, or whether Article 425 merely referenced the requirements of res judicata and thus a claim could not be precluded unless it was between the same parties as a prior suit. After reviewing the law and the arguments of the parties, the Louisiana Supreme Court found Article 425 functioned simply as a measure that put litigants on notice at the outset and, during the course of litigation, all causes of action arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation must be asserted. "Rather than have independent enforcement effect, Article 425 operates in tandem with and is enforced through the exception of res judicata. Because Article 425 is enforced through res judicata, all elements of res judicata–including identity of parties–must be satisfied for a second suit to be precluded." View "Carollo v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development" 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 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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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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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

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court in Doe v. Mckesson, 2 F.4th 502 (5th Cir. 2021) (per curiam). The plaintiff in this personal injury case named as defendants the Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) organization1 and DeRay Mckesson (alleged to be a leader and co- founder of BLM). The plaintiff alleges that he was a duly commissioned police officer for the City of Baton Rouge on July 9, 2016, when he was ordered to respond to a protest “staged and organized by” BLM and DeRay Mckesson, which was in response to the July 5, 2016 death of Alton Sterling, who was shot by a Baton Rouge police officer when Sterling resisted arrest. The issues raised by the Fifth Circuit were: (1) whether Louisiana law recognized a duty, under the facts alleged in the complaint, or otherwise, not to negligently precipitate the crime of a third party; (2) assuming Mckesson could otherwise be held liable for a breach of duty owed to Officer Doe, whether Louisiana’s Professional Rescuer’s Doctrine barred recovery under the facts alleged in the complaint. The Court answered the former in the affirmative and the latter in the negative. View "Doe v. McKesson et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Calvin and Mary Landry filed a petition for damages, alleging they suffered injuries arising out of an automobile collision. Plaintiffs brought the action against defendant-driver Riyad Shaibi, his insurer Financial Indemnity Company (“Financial”), and Progressive Security Insurance Company (“Progressive”), as the insurer of the 2008 Toyota Sienna that Shaibi was driving at the time of the collision. Shaibi was bringing the 2008 Toyota Sienna to a tire shop to repair a flat tire as a favor to its owner, Aziz Ali. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of this matter to address whether the court of appeal erred in finding public policy mandated liability coverage by a defendant driver’s automobile insurance policy for an accident occurring while operating a non-owned automobile. Under the narrow facts presented, the Court found neither statutory law nor public policy considerations required automobile insurance liability coverage related to a defendant driver’s negligent operation of a non-owned vehicle. Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant insurer. View "Landry v. Progressive Security Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law

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In September 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the New Orleans Saints in the New Orleans Superdome. In preparation for the game, the Buccaneers’ Director of Football Security Operations contacted the New Orleans Police Department (“NOPD”) to request motorcycle escorts, by off-duty law enforcement for officers, for the team’s buses traveling in the New Orleans area, which were to include an escort after the game when the team buses would travel from the Superdome to the airport. NOPD agreed to provide the necessary off-duty officers, along with officers from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (“JPSO”), for the Buccaneer team buses. At issue on the motion for summary judgment filed in this case was whether the Buccaneers football organization was vicariously liable, as an employer, for the alleged negligence of an off-duty Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy, who was part of the motorcycle escort for the team’s buses, when the motorcycle the deputy was riding collided with another deputy directing traffic on foot in an intersection. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that the unrebutted evidence presented by defendants moving for summary judgment showed there was no employee-employer relationship between the deputy sheriff and the Buccaneers under the facts and circumstances of this case; therefore, the Court reversed the denial of the Buccaneers’ motion for summary judgment and remanded to the district court for entry of a summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Bolden v. Tisdale et al." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Plaintiff Cindy Planchard, filed suit against defendant, the New Hotel Monteleone, LLC. Plaintiff alleged that as she crossed the lobby of defendant’s hotel, she slipped on a foreign substance on the marble floor and fell, sustaining an injury. After discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment, relying on a surveillance video of the accident. The video showed a hotel employee dry mopping the lobby area at 8:36 p.m., approximately three minutes before plaintiff’s accident. Two “wet floor” signs are in place in the area. At 8:37 p.m., approximately one minute before plaintiff’s fall, two more “wet floor” signs were added to the area, and an employee continued to dry mop the area. Plaintiff was then seen to fall at 8:38 p.m. Defendant also submitted plaintiff’s deposition testimony. In her deposition, plaintiff acknowledged seeing the signs. Plaintiff also testified she “had to walk around” the signs because there “was no other path to the front door.” As a result, plaintiff stated she “walked to the side of the signs to get to the front door.” Plaintiff opposed defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Relying on her deposition testimony, plaintiff did not dispute that she saw the signs, but asserted that she thought they were “chalkboard” and did not read them. Plaintiff introduced pictures of the signs showing they did not have the traditional bright orange or yellow appearance, but were made of wood and brass. The district court denied the hotel's motion, concluding there were questions of fact concerning the “reasonableness on the part of the defendant” based on the visibility of the signs. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding that the undisputed evidence established plaintiff saw the warning signs in the area prior to her fall. "Any failure of plaintiff to read these signs was a product of her own inattentiveness and not a result of the defendant’s failure to take reasonable precautions." View "Blanchard v. New Hotel Monteleone, LLC." on Justia Law