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Written by C. Reynolds LeBlanc

Can a Corporation Drive Drunk?: A Look at Employer Liability for Punitive Damages

The power to punish is generally the role of the criminal courts. Civil courts concern themselves with making a plaintiff “whole.” In fact, it would be legal error for a civil court to impose recovery against a defendant as a form of punishment–with one notable exception. When “punitive damages” are allowed, a civil court may “punish” a defendant.

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Grounds for Appeal: Preparing for Round Two

phone retnolds post

 

Lawsuits begin in the trial court. For that reason, the immediate focus remains in the trial court where the case will be decided by the jury or the trial judge. However, once the judgment is entered or the verdict reached, the focus quickly shifts to the appeals court. In many cases, what happens in the trial court is just “round one” and cases are often truly decided on appeal. This post will help to identify the types of issues considered when there is an appeal.

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LESS THAN OBVIOUS STATE OF “OPEN AND OBVIOUS” DEFENSE

The “open and obvious” defense remains alive and well in Louisiana according to an article penned recently by  Professor John M. Church of the LSU Law Center for the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel. In April 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court announced Broussard v. State of Louisiana, 2012-1238 (La. 4/5/13), 113 So.3d 175, which muddied the waters regarding use of the “open and obvious” defense. Some read Broussard as a pronouncement that the “open and obvious” defense was essentially dead in Louisiana. However, as reflected in Professor Church’s article, subsequent Louisiana Supreme Court decisions have given new life to the defense.

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Claims for Negligent Spoliation of Evidence Not Supported by Louisiana Law

In Reynolds v. Bordelon, 2014-2362 (La. 6/30/15), — So.3d—, 2015 WL 3972370, the Louisiana Supreme Court definitively ruled that Louisiana law does not recognize a cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence. This resolved a disputed issue of Louisiana law.

The Reynolds plaintiff was involved in a multi-car accident in which his airbag failed to deploy. His insurance company paid what was owed for the totaled vehicle under its policy and, in the normal course of business, disposed of the vehicle by auctioning it to a salvage yard. Plaintiff’s petition included a claim against the auto manufacturer for the airbag failure. It also included a claim against his insurance company and the salvage yard for failure to preserve the vehicle as evidence likely to be used in litigation.

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A More “Direct Action”

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently announced a decision that could alter the impact of Louisiana’s “Direct Action Statute.” See Soileau v. Smith True Value and Rental, et. al., 2012-1711, — So. 3d —.

In Soileau, the injured plaintiff initiated suit after a John Deere front-end loader malfunctioned. She settled with a number of parties but proceeded to trial against the store from which the machinery was rented, the store’s owners (collectively, the Smiths) and the Smiths’ insurer, Hartford Insurance Company.

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Parish Finds Debris Clean-Up Doesn’t Come For Free

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that St. Tammany Parish must pay for hurricane clean-up services even though it had no formal contract with the party that did the work. See USA Disaster Discovery, Inc. v. St. Tammany Parish Government, 2013-0656, — So.3d —.

Fallen trees and loose debris were familiar sights across Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Immediately after the storm, emergency protocols were followed to rescue those trapped in their homes or in other buildings. To perform search and rescue, trees and debris had to be cleared. This duty fell to the Sheriff’s office under St. Tammany’s emergency operation plan. However, neither the Parish nor the Sheriff’s office had the necessary resources. Therefore, the Parish contracted with various entities to help clear the debris.

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