dollar_general_store_in-scaledIf you slip and fall over an item that has fallen at a store, you might think that you will be able to recover for your injuries in a lawsuit against the store. However, it is not enough to simply show that you slipped and fell. Instead, you must show that the store knew about or created the condition that caused you to slip and fall. Because Lilly Edwards could not show this, the court dismissed her lawsuit against a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dollar General store.

While shopping at a Dollar General store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Edwards tripped on a box that she later described as a poster board.  She claimed this poster board fell into the aisle where she was shopping. Edwards claimed she tripped on it as she went around the corner, which caused her to fall and injure her knee. After this fall, Edwards sued the Dollar General store. Dollar General filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  The trial court held that Edwards could not prove that Dollar General had known about the hazardous condition that resulted in her fall.  Without this knowledge, Dollar General could not be found liable.  Edwards then appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.  

Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence shows no genuine issues of material fact. See La. C.C.P. art 966(B)(2). Under Louisiana law, a store owner such as Dollar General owes a duty to people who come to shop there to exercise reasonable care to ensure its floors are kept in a reasonably safe condition and that the store has no hazardous conditions. See La. R.S. 9:2800.6. Here, Edwards had the burden of proving: (1) the poster board that she tripped over was an unreasonable risk of harm; (2) Dollar General had either created or had knowledge of the poster board on the floor; and (3) Dollar General did not exercise a reasonable standard of care. 

foggy_sidewalk_morning_fog-scaledPremises liability is an active area of personal injury law, and accidents occurring on public property are no exception. The question often arises, who is liable for a slip and fall on a public sidewalk? In this case, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal was asked to determine the premises liability of the town of Lake Arthur for a fall occurring on a public sidewalk built and maintained by this public entity.

On July 11, 2014, Robin Rogers Richard fell while walking along a sidewalk in Lake Arthur. The portion of the sidewalk where her fall occurred was a driveway that allowed maintenance vehicles to access a public park, with a sloping transition on either side running perpendicular to the street. This portion of the sidewalk was completed in September 2013 by John Anderson Concrete Finishes, Inc. (Anderson), under the direction of Robert Bertrand, the major of Lake Arthur. 

Ms. Richard filed a motion for summary judgment on the liability issue, arguing the slope of the transition area did not meet certain state and national requirements and was, therefore, defective per se. However, at her deposition, she indicated that her last step before her fall was on a flat portion of the new sidewalk, not the sloped portion. In response, Lake Arthur, Anderson, and its insurer, Seneca Specialty Insurance Co, filed motions for summary judgment alleging statutory immunity from liability and they were not liable because the condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious.

workers_road_workers_site-scaledEmployment law disputes are very fact-specific inquiries. Judges, especially workers’ compensation judges, are typically well-equipped to handle these cases. But when a judge mishandles the facts or misinterprets the law having an excellent attorney in your corner helps in the appeal process. For the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (“SWBNO”), the appeal detailed below involves several issues that SWBNO argues were in error based on the workers’ compensation judge’s decision.

To provide important background information, this case involved a former employee, Catherine Johnson (“Johnson”), who was hired by SWBNO in April 2013 as a probationary employee, meaning she was not considered a full-time employee during the six months after she started the job. However, while Johnson was still in this designated probationary period, she was injured on the job during her employment with SWBNO. About a month before Johnson’s probationary period was set to end, SWBNO held a pre-termination hearing that determined Johnson displayed a poor work performance unrelated to her injury, which caused her employment to be terminated.

Johnson subsequently filed a disputed claim for compensation against SWBNO with the Office of Workers’ Compensation that included a request regarding penalties for failure to timely reimburse mileage expenses, among other payments for wages and benefits. SWBNO denied the claims, and a hearing ensued before the workers’ compensation judge.

shopping_cart_shopping_supermarket_1-scaledEveryone can picture a grocery store on a busy day. The aisles are congested, and workers are hurrying to replace products on the sales floor. There may be stocking carts blocking walkways. Who is responsible if a shopper trips over a worker’s cart and injures herself? What about if the worker and the shopper knew the cart was there?

This scenario is exactly what happened to Donna Massery, a shopper when she tripped over a vegetable cart at a Rouses Market in New Orleans. She had arrived at Rouses and was searching for ginger when she approached Produce Manager, Jose Villa, to ask for directions. Villa was restocking produce that was on a cart. The cart was approximately 5 to 6 feet wide and 3 feet tall, with a long bed spanning the length. The middle section of Villa’s cart was empty, though boxes were stacked on both the left and right sides. 

Ms. Massery reached for the ginger upon Mr. Villa’s direction, turned to walk away, and fell over the cart. She sustained soft tissue damage from catching herself with her hands and hitting her shin and knee on the cart. There was a factual dispute over the length and substance of Ms. Massery and Mr. Villa’s conversation. Mr. Villa contends that he alerted her to the hazard and directed her to move away. Ms. Massery claims it was a shorter conversation limited to the subject of her ginger inquiry.

stations_cross_jesus_pilateIn a bizarre turn of events, an attempt to get unpaid wages from a Terrebonne Parish video store owner turned violent and led to the appeal discussed below. The appeal delved into the standards that Louisiana courts consider when it comes to repeated violations of their pretrial orders. The case below answers the question; Can a Louisiana court impose a default judgment for failure to obey pretrial orders?

Ronald Guste, the grandfather of a Tiger Audio employee, confronted Earl Lirette, the owner of Tiger Audio, about wages owed to Mr. Guste’s grandson. Mr. Lirette lept around the counter and knocked Mr. Guste to the ground, causing injuries to his back and hip that would require treatment and surgery. 

Mr. and Mrs. Guste brought a lawsuit against both Tiger Audio and Mr. Lirette for damages from the injury, including loss of consortium for Mrs. Guste. At trial, the Gustes moved for penalties against the defendants, noting that neither Tiger Audio nor Mr. Lirette had complied with mandatory pretrial deadlines. The trial court denied the defendants’ counterargument of lack of notice and found in favor of penalizing the defendants. These penalties included the refusal to allow them to call any witnesses or present any defenses, thereby executing a default trial in which the defendants were to lose automatically. The court found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them upwards of $350,000. The defendants’ motion for a new trial was denied, and this appeal followed. 

wheelchair_pattern_black_background_4Recovering from an automobile collision is already a difficult journey. Sometimes physical recovery does not occur in a straight line, and intermediate accidents can complicate the process. This was especially true for Alexandria resident Mr. Maricle. 

During his recovery from injuries due to a car crash, Mr. Maricle sustained further injuries due to a defective wheelchair supplied by Axis. Maricle filed a lawsuit in 2013 against Axis. In 2014, a trial court denied Axis’s motion for summary judgment; Axis appealed this denial and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order. Significantly, the Court of Appeals held that the only issue left was determining whether Axis failed to inspect the wheelchair. Based on that holding, the trial court denied the Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion and granted Axis’ summary judgment because there were no visible defects prior to the wheelchair’s delivery to Maricle. 

Maricle presented numerous issues on appeal. The first issue was that La.Civ.Code art. 2317.1, used by the trial court to grant summary judgment, does not apply because that provision is only for owners or custodians of the defective item. Liability as an owner or custodian requires proof “that the thing was in the defendant’s custody and control.” Davis v. Am. Legion Hosp. Instead, Marcile argued that La.Civ.Code arts. 2696-97, which applies to lessors of an item and specifies a warranty that attaches to the lease, should apply because Axis was strictly liable as the lessor of the wheelchair. 

medical_consultation_treatment_room-scaledCourts often rely on motions for summary judgments to avoid the costly and time-consuming reality of going to trial and presenting a case in front of a jury. Motions for summary judgment are when one party asks the court to decide the case based on the current facts alleged in their favor. Courts should grant these motions when there are no facts in dispute for the jury to resolve. But how much evidence does a party have to present to survive one of these motions? A case out of New Orleans shows that, in some cases, just having medical records could be enough to deny a motion for summary judgment. 

Emmanuel Bridgewater was lounging on a median at the intersection of Washington Avenue and South Dorgenois Street when a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus made a left-hand turn off of Toledano street and an immediate right turn onto Washington Avenue. The bus cut the corner too closely and drove onto the median, hitting Bridgewater. As a result of the accident, Bridgewater’s right arm broke, his right leg was injured, and he said that the accident left him permanently disabled. Bridgewater alleged that the bus did not stop after he was hit and instead fled the scene. A bystander who did not witness the accident heard Bridgewater calling for help and called 911 emergency services. An ambulance and New Orleans Police Officer Roger Smith arrived at the scene. Bridgewater alleged that Smith did not question him about the accident before he was taken to the hospital.

Bridgewater filed a lawsuit against the RTA and the City of New Orleans and added the Transit Management of Southeast Louisiana, Inc. (TMSL) as a defendant. Bridgewater accused the defendants of being jointly liable for his injuries and argued that the NOPD officer assigned to the RTA acted to protect the RTA from liability. Bridgewater also asserted that the City was at fault because it failed to place signs in the accident area to warn pedestrians that buses may run onto the median and hit them. The City filed for summary judgment, and the court granted the City’s motion. Next, Bridgewater filed a motion for rehearing, contesting the court’s decision. Then, RTA also filed a motion for summary judgment, and the judge denied Bridgewater’s rehearing and granted RTA’s motion. Bridgewater eventually appealed, and RTA responded, seeking attorney fees and costs against Bridgewater for filing a frivolous claim, which means that the lawsuit lacked any basis. 

bridge_mississippi_river_baton-scaledNothing is more tragic than the loss of life. However, that loss can be tempered somewhat if insurance is in place that provides some financial compensation. While money cannot substitute for the loss of love and companionship that a spouse gives, it can at least provide some help with the bills and, therefore, one less thing to worry about when grieving. But what happens when the insurance company refuses to pay your claim? The following lawsuit in Tangipahoa, Louisiana, discusses these issues in the context of a car accident, uninsured motorist coverage, and the refusal of State Farm to pay the claim. 

As Jerry and his wife Lois Draayer drove down Interstate 55 in Pike County, Mississippi, a motorist struck the couple. Unfortunately, that driver had both crossed the median and lacked sufficient insurance. The underinsured motorist was Russel Allen, and Lois Draayer tragically died from the collision. 

Lois’s family brought a lawsuit against Allen, his automobile liability insurer (Progressive Insurance Company), and named their insurer, State Farm, which they claimed provided Lois with UM coverage. The Draayers added State Farm to the suit to ensure financial recovery for Lois’s death. 

money_laundering_money_music_0-scaledThe lawsuit process can be expensive between investigation, preparation for trial, and the trial itself. This is on top of the emotional rollercoaster of events that have given rise to a lawsuit in the first place. Unfortunately, sometimes a plaintiff may lose at trial and be hit with all the litigation costs for both parties. The following case shows how those costs are within the court’s discretion.

Sarah Reynolds was involved in a head-on collision with a passenger bus while driving her car in Slidell, Louisiana. Both vehicles were operating at the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour. Reynolds was traveling the wrong way on a westbound overpass on Interstate 10. When authorities reached the scene, Reynolds was found unconscious and unrestrained. Reynolds blood tests revealed a blood alcohol content of .082gm% and a presence of Xanax and marijuana. Reynolds died a few hours after the accident due to the multiple traumatic injuries sustained.

Reynolds’ son, mother, son’s father, and estate filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). They alleged Reynolds had been misdirected onto the wrong side of the roadway due to DOTD’s negligence. DOTD subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing the plaintiffs could neither establish negligence nor causation. 

courthouse_alabama_building_226689-scaledEveryone wants to emerge victorious after their day in court, but occasionally the jury will refuse to award the judgment you deserve. When a person loses their case at trial, they can appeal it to a higher court.  The appeal process allows for a narrow reconsideration of a case to assure that the lower court got to the correct answer; if the appeals court finds that the lower court did not get the correct answer, they can amend the lower court’s judgment, including the calculation of damages. 

Preexisting medical conditions aggravated by an accident do not preclude an injured party from recovering damages and medical expenses from the person who hit them. Ms. Kimberly Guidry has such preexisting medical conditions and was involved in an accident that aggravated those preexisting medical conditions. At trial in the 15th Juridical District, the jury found awarded no damages, no medical expenses, and no lost wages to Kimberly. 

Kimberly had presented medical expert testimony that showed her injuries were aggravated by the accident, but the jury awarded her nothing. With this denial, Kimberly appealed to the Third Circuit Court of appeals. She claimed the jury committed “manifest error” in their findings and that the trial court had committed a “legal error” in failing to grant her a new trial due to this adverse ruling. Kimberly’s case helps answer the question; “If a Louisiana Jury awards no damages because of preexisting injuries, can an appeals court fix the ruling?”

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