Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

marriage_rings_wedding_hands-scaledIt is always tragic when a loved one passes away, especially when there are children are involved. Death benefits are part of the workers’ compensation system intended to help the surviving family members when someone passes away as a result of an on-the-job accident. However, with the evolving definition of a family, there can sometimes be complicated legal issues about who is entitled to recover death benefits. This case involves a claim from a supposedly unmarried romantic partner who had a child with the worker who died in an accident at work. 

Travis Chiokai died as a result of an accident at work. When he died, Chiokai was unmarried. However, Chiokai had been in a romantic relationship with Latashia Perez. Perez filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation against Chiokai’s employer, Irby Construction, as well as their insurer, Old Republic. Perez sought death benefits for herself, as well as for her unborn child. Once the child was born, DNA testing was conducted that confirmed the child’s father was Chiokai. The child subsequently received death benefits. 

Irby Construction and its insurer argued Perez should not received benefits under La. R.S. 23:1253, which defines dependents who are entitled to receive death benefits. The statute explicitly states that a concubine, such as Perez, is not entitled to receive death benefits. Irby Construction and its insurer filed an exception of no right or cause of action. The Workers’ Compensation Judge denied the motion. 

uranium_radioactive_nuclear_rays-scaledWe have all heard the saying “time is of the essence.” This is especially true when you are filing a lawsuit. If you do not comply with the statutory requirements for how long you have to file a lawsuit, a court will be unable to hear your claim. Although certain exceptions apply that extend your timeline for filing a lawsuit, there are strict evidentiary requirements for these exceptions to apply. 

Julius Lennie worked for a Company that cleaned pipes in oilfields. The cleaning process allegedly involved the emission of naturally occurring radioactive material. About fifteen years after retiring, Lennie was diagnosed with lung cancer and died shortly thereafter. Four years later, his surviving spouse and children filed a lawsuit against various companies for whom Lennie had cleaned their oilfield pipes. They claimed Lennie had been exposed to harmful levels of radiation, causing his lung cancer and death. They claimed the companies had been aware of the dangers of the radioactive materials but did not warn Lennie about the dangerous or take adequate precautions. The Lennies claimed they were not aware about the radiation exposure until less than a year before they filed their lawsuit, when one of Lennie’s children read about it in the newspaper and they met with an attorney. The Lennies claimed the companies had actively concealed the existence of the naturally occurring radioactive materials. 

Because the Lennies filed their lawsuit over a year after Lennie’s death, the defendants filed peremptory exceptions of prescription, claiming they were required to have filed their lawsuit within one year of his death, pursuant to La. C.C. art. 2315.1. The Lennies claimed they did not have any actual or constructive knowledge of their claims until less than a year before they filed the lawsuit, because the companies had concealed it. The trial court granted the defendants’ peremptory exceptions of prescription, finding there was not sufficient evidence the defendants had concealed the existence of the naturally occurring radioactive material such that the Lennies did not have knowledge of their possible claims. The Lennies appealed.

nuclear_waste_radioactive_trash-scaledEven in cases involving tragic factual situations, strict procedural requirements must be followed to prevail on your claim. This case involves the time limits in which you must file a lawsuit and the principle of contra non valentem, which is a rule that the time limit in which someone has to file a lawsuit does not start if the other person was hiding information that would allow them to bring their claim.

This case involves the tragic death of a husband and father, Julius Lennie. Tuboscope employed him for over thirty years. Various oil companies hired Tuboscope to clean and refurbish pipes and tubes used in the oilfield. The clean process involved the emission of a naturally occurring radioactive material. In 2010, after retiring, Lennie was diagnosed with lung cancer and died shortly thereafter. Almost four years later, his spouse and children filed a lawsuit against various companies that had hired Tuboscope.

His surviving family claimed Lennie had been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while working, which caused his cancer and death. They alleged the companies knew naturally occurring radioactive materials were dangerous but had not warned Lennie or taken appropriate corrective actions. The Lennies argued they had filed the lawsuit after reading an article about radiation exposure in pipe yards, so they were not on notice of their claims until September 2013.

hurricane_katrina_flooding_180538-scaledHurricanes do not discriminate. Regardless of age, wealth, gender, health, or race, hurricanes are merciless to all they come in contact with. Such was the case for Ms. Taylor, who experienced the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

Ms. Taylor had been in the care of Touro Infirmary when Hurricane Katrina struck the state of Louisiana in 2005. Taylor was 82 and had undergone radiation therapy for her lung cancer three days before Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. After radiation, Taylor complained of nausea and vomiting. Staff diagnosed her with hematemesis, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, digoxin toxicity, COPD, and lung cancer.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, the City of New Orleans experienced severe infrastructure damage, expansive power outages, and a lack of clean water. Touro also experienced generator failure, causing the building to become unbearably hot. After 72 hours, it evacuated its patients to UT Southwestern Hospital in Dallas, TX. When the patients arrived, medical staff struggled to care for them because pieces of their medical charts were missing. 

airplane_airplane_cruising_897048-scaledHave you ever witnessed an accident? The experience can be overwhelming, leaving lasting, often overlooked emotional scars. Such consequences raise an essential question; can a witness to an accident seek damages in court? The subsequent lawsuit helps answer that question. The journey of the litigants through the intricate legal landscape reveals their unwavering determination to find solace for the emotional anguish they endured as witnesses to the tragic events.

The story begins on a fateful day when Briana Davis and her boyfriend, Reginald Hilliard, Jr., embarked on an aerial tour of the City of New Orleans. Unfortunately, the flight ended tragically as the plane, piloted by James Biondo, crashed into Lake Pontchartrain, resulting in the death of Reginald Hilliard, Jr. In the aftermath, Dorothy Jarvis, Tukeya Jarvis, and Thomas Hilliard (Jarvis and Hillard), relatives of the deceased, arrived at the crash scene and witnessed the recovery operations.

In their lawsuit, Jarvis and Hillard claimed that James Biondo’s negligence, specifically his failure to properly inspect, operate, pilot, navigate, and prevent the airplane crash, was the direct cause of the tragedy. Furthermore, they sought bystander damages under Louisiana C.C. art. 2315.6, asserting they suffered severe mental anguish and emotional distress due to witnessing the crash and its aftermath.

news_stock_newspaper_glasses-scaledInsurance claims can be tricky, especially when multiple parties and contracts are involved. What happens, for example, when one insurance company claims they are not responsible for payment after a catastrophic event resulting in lost lives? The following Terrebonne Parish case follows this exact scenario. 

 An explosion at the Transco facility in Gibson, Louisiana, resulted in the death of four individuals, including two employees of Danos and Curole Marine Contractors, LLC (hereinafter referred to as  “Danos”) and two employees of Furmanite America, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “Furmanite”). The Danos employees were working under a request-for-service order issued by Transco under a General Service Agreement, and the Furmanite employees were working as a subcontractor to Danos under a request-for-service order under a Master Service Contract. Following the explosion, many lawsuits, including this one, were filed against Transco, Danos, and Furmanite.

Transco then filed a third-party demand against The Gray Insurance Company (hereinafter referred to as “Gray”), maintaining that Gray must defend and indemnify Transco under a provision in an insurance contract issued to Danos for which Transco was named additionally insured under the General Service Agreement. Gray then filed multiple objections to Transco’s claim based on prematurity. The 32nd Judicial District Court for the Parish of Terrebonne then dismissed Transco’s claims. An appeal to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal by Transco followed.

courthouse_court_law_justice_0-1-scaledAllocating damages in a wrongful death case is challenging because putting a price on a life is hard. Therefore, if a family in a wrongful death case feels the jury abused its discretion in calculating that monetary value, then the family can resort to a motion for JNOV to try and correct the decision. However, this is a rigorous standard, and a recent case out of Baton Rouge outlines how a court reviews these motions. 

Noha Salama was visiting family in Louisiana from her home in Israel. Her nephew picked her up from the airport in New Orleans, and the two drove down Interstate 10 toward Baton Rouge. The nephew exited the highway at Louisiana Highway 44/Burnside Drive in Gonzales and stopped at the stop sign at the end of the exit ramp. In an attempt to re-enter the interstate, the nephew drove the vehicle across the four-lane highway and failed to stop at the median, which divided the north and southbound lanes. Once the vehicle crossed over the median, it was broadsided by two cars going south. Salama, who was in the front passenger seat, died at the accident scene. 

Salama’s husband and five children filed a wrongful death action against her nephew, his insurer, the drivers of the two southbound vehicles, their insurers, and the DOTD. The family settled with all of the defendants except for the DOTD, and their case against the DOTD proceeded to a jury trial. The family alleged the DOTD, which had control over the intersection, was at fault for the accident for treating the Highway 44 exit and entrance ramps as a single intersection rather than two separate intersections. 

medical_emergency_emergency_ambulance-scaledMedical malpractice claims are brought when a patient is a victim of negligence at the hands of their physician. Due to the nature of this category of claims, stories of medical malpractice are often horror stories showcasing worst-case scenarios. Even further, the most intense medical malpractice claims result in the death of the patient. Understandably, the patient’s family may seek to find responsibility for the death of their loved one. In the following lawsuit, a family fails to show the legal requirements to bring a medical malpractice claim after their family member died during surgery. 

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are the surviving family members of a man who died during brain surgery by the defendant’s physician. The family contends that due to the deceased’s history of cardiac trauma prior to surgery, he should have been evaluated for cardiac fitness before the physician performed the surgery. The trial court found that the expert testimony proffered by three physicians was insufficient to prove that medical malpractice had occurred. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, insisting that the defendant had breached his duty of care by not ordering further cardiac tests.

The plaintiff must establish the elements of a medical malpractice claim to bring the claim successfully. The first element required to be shown is the standard of care at which comparable physicians in Louisiana generally exercise when taking care of their patients. The second required element is that the defendant failed to meet the reasonable care prescribed by the first element or lacked the required knowledge altogether. The third and final element is that the failure to exercise reasonable care caused the plaintiff’s injuries. La. R.S. 9:2794(A)

exxon_valdez_cleanup-scaledWe have all read headlines about lawsuits filed against gas and energy companies by workers who have developed health problems at their facilities. But what happens when a plaintiff files a lawsuit which could be barred by a workers’ compensation act? Will the claim be able to withstand a peremptory exception? How does the plaintiff fight against such a motion?

Susan Mulkey appealed a trial court judgment sustaining a peremptory exception dismissing her claims against Exxon Mobil Corporation for damages. Her case arose from the death of her husband, Michael Mulkey Sr., who was exposed to toxic chemicals during his time at Exxon. Mulkey Sr. worked at Exxon for thirty-five years, during which he was exposed to benzene. He was subsequently diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. 

Mulkey Sr. claimed forty-one employees of Exxon were liable for his damages because of their negligence in properly safeguarding the work environment. When Mulkey Sr. died from leukemia, his wife and children filed a lawsuit for damages. Exxon filed a peremptory exception, claiming Mulkey failed to state a cause of action, which the trial court sustained. Exxon was eventually dismissed from the lawsuit, which Mulkey appealed. 

law_justice_court_judge-scaledImagine being on a jury – everything you hear has gone through a process of admittance to be used as evidence during the trial. What the jury is told often plays a role in what the jury thinks of the parties and how it assigns blame amongst them. The following lawsuit explores what happens when a defendant challenges the admittance of a piece of evidence it believes unfairly swayed the jury against it. It also helps answer the question; can a litigant exclude evidence in a car accident lawsuit?

Elsie Boudreaux and her mother, Thelma Bizette, passed away due to a car accident in Addis, Louisiana. The surviving family members brought a lawsuit against the Louisiana State Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). A jury found the accident to be 60% the fault of Boudreaux and 40% the fault of the DOTD.

The DOTD appealed the trial court’s ruling, alleging it erred in denying their motion to exclude evidence of how the department collected crash reports at the accident site. They claimed evidence on crash report procedures was irrelevant to how the accident occurred. They also claimed they were unduly prejudiced because the evidence misled the jury. 

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