THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON CIVIL LITIGATION IN LOUISIANA In mid-March, civil litigation in Louisiana came to a screeching halt with the issuance of the statewide Stay-At-Home Order and court closures that soon followed. With few exceptions, legal deadlines were...
This post updates our most recent blog post An Update On Court Closures And Legal Proceedings In Louisiana to provide the latest information on court closures and extension of legal deadlines.
It came as no big surprise that courts did not reopen to the public on May 4, 2020. On April 30, Governor John Bel Edwards formally extended Louisiana’s Stay at Home order until May 15, 2020. After May 15, we could move to “Phase 1” and see an ease of restrictions on some public spaces and gatherings. However, another extension of the Stay at Home order is possible.
As a resource for our clients and colleagues, we have summarized the Governor’s Proclamations and Orders of Louisiana state and federal courts as they relate to suspension of legal deadlines and the impact on legal proceedings.
With the prevalence of surveillance video nowadays in stores, restaurants, on trucks and in public, the question of the preservation of that evidence frequently arises. More sophisticated businesses know to keep the video. Smaller entities sometimes discard it or record over it without any thought. Video can be lost for other reasons. This happens with other evidence too. Email, maintenance records, logs, etc. While businesses should have evidence preservation policies in place, we still see the failure to preserve evidence as an issue on a rather frequent basis. In many cases, that evidence would have been helpful to the defense.
Most of the fraud cases we come across involve a history of treatment/injuries which the claimant fails to disclose. Turner v. Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, 52,167 (2 Cir. 6/27/18), was one of those cases.
Alex Turner worked as a carpenter’s helper for Chicago at a construction site near Hackberry, Louisiana. Forty days after he was hired, he claimed to have suffered a back injury. He was initially sent back to work at sedentary duty. After a short time, Turner complained that he could not do the sedentary work because of back pain and was terminated for “insubordination”. He was sorting cards at a table and claimed that this caused him horrific back pain. Employer then denied benefits.
Contractual indemnity and defense is a frequently litigated issue in Louisiana. Although the case law is fairly clear and consistent, the contractual language is not always so.
In Ponder v. SDT Waste and Debris Services, LLC, et al, 15-1656 (1st Cir. 8/16/17), the issue arose in the context of a dumpster provided to a restaurant. Plaintiff was employed by the restaurant when he claims that he was injured when the wheels fell off of a garbage dumpster causing it to fall on his foot. He sued the owner of the dumpster, SDT, claiming that the dumpster was not kept in a reasonably safe condition.
In LaSalle v. City of Lake Charles, 17-32 (3 Cir. 5/24/17), the claimant suffered a left knee injury when he fell off of a trash truck in the course and scope of his employment with the City of Lake Charles. He eventually underwent surgery and a knee replacement. Medicals and indemnity
benefits were paid with regard to that left knee injury.
Subsequently, he saw a doctor for pain in his right knee. He received a steroid injection and an MRI was ordered. The employer denied the compensability of his treatment.
In Stroder v. Hill Corp. Energy Company, et al, 17-1086 (3 Cir. 4/4/18), the plaintiff drove a dump truck to a land based drilling rig to transport drilling mud from the rig for waste disposal. He testified when he saw the mud to be transported, he felt it was too fluid to be hauled in a dump truck. He was worried about the stability of the load and claimed he offered to return with another truck. He also claimed that that rig operator’s employees assured him it would be safe to use the dump truck.
Louisiana provides only limited bad faith causes of action against insurers on third party claims. Bad faith claims are mostly limited to first party claims under the policy. The plaintiff in Lee v. Sapp, 17-490 (4th Cir. 12/6/17), made a novel argument.
The case involved a motor vehicle accident. The alleged tortfeasor, the other driver, was insured by State Farm. Coincidentally, State Farm was also the plaintiff’s automobile liability insurer. Plaintiff did not have UM coverage, and his claims were made strictly against State Farm as the other driver’s insurer. No claim was made under his policy.
In Jack v. Eldorado Casino, et al, 52, 454 (2nd Cir. 1/16/19), a casino patron complained that as she was playing a slot machine, a beverage server spilled hot coffee on her. This caused her to jump and twist suddenly out of her chair. She allegedly suffered a low back injury as a result.
The plaintiff was awarded $245,000.00 in general damages for her injuries. Prior to trial, she had undergone a two level lumbar fusion with the placement of artificial discs. Her past medicals were $237,124.79.