Procedural Pitfalls: The Consequences of Neglecting Administrative Remedies in Personal Injury Claims

jail_bars_old_historyA personal injury claim requires following specific rules and procedures to ensure a fair and just resolution. For Joseph Barlow, who slipped and fell while detained at the Lafayette Correctional Facility, his failure to adhere to the correction center’s administrative remedies became critical. This article examines the consequences Barlow faced when he disregarded the proper procedures and highlights the significance of following the established protocols.

Joseph Barlow was detained at the Lafayette Correctional Facility, where he slipped and fell in a puddle of water on two different occasions. Barlow claims an open pipe allowed water to overflow onto the floor. He filed a lawsuit against the Director of Corrections for Lafayette Parish, the Sheriff of Lafayette Parish, and the insurance company for injuries sustained to his neck and back. The defendants filed an exception of prematurity, claiming Barlow did not look at all of the remedies provided by the correction center’s handbook. The defendants also filed an exception of prescription and abandonment. A trial court sustained all of the defendants’ motions, and Barlow’s claims were dismissed. Barlow appealed.

In the appeal, Barlow claimed the trial court erred in granting the exception of prematurity. He first argued the handbook did not mention the procedures for injury claims resulting from negligence. He then argued the defendants had notice of the danger from the pipe. Lastly, Barlow claimed he did not receive an up-to-date handbook and was not informed of its alterations.

According to Louisiana law, a sheriff can enact administrative remedies which provide procedures for resolving complaints and grievances, including those relating to personal injuries. Barlow alleged he was given the handbook on March 23, 2015, and informed about the grievance process the next day. Barlow received the 2012 version of the handbook, as the next revision of the handbook was released in September 2015. The 2012 version was still in place when Barlow suffered his injuries. The court looked at the language in the handbook, which stated a grievance must concern some misconduct by a deputy. Those filing a grievance must attempt to resolve it with the deputy. If the attempt is rendered futile, the individual must submit a grievance form within thirty days of the incident. 

Barlow argued the grievance procedure did not provide instructions for injury claims. The defendants argued the handbook’s language, which stated the grievance must concern the facility’s operational duties, was enough to cover Barlow’s personal injury claims. The court found the handbook’s procedures did apply to complaints about the operations at the correctional facility, including those asserted by Barlow. The court further stated the administrative remedy was sufficient to allow Barlow to state his claim. The court noted Barlow never took advantage of the administrative process, as he did not file a grievance form in the first place. He did follow the procedure for another incident, which was evidence he was aware of the existing procedures. 

Barlow also argued there was notice of his claim because both of his falls were witnessed by deputies who then took him to the nurse. The defendants contended there was no showing of evidence to prove a deputy took Barlow to the nurse, where they took down his statement. The court agreed with the defendants. Lastly, the defendants claimed Barlow attempted to disrupt the administrative process by informing the warden instead of the Administrative Remedy Process Officer. Again, The court agreed Barlow should have followed the proper procedure to document his complaint. The court affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant the defendants’ prematurity exception and prescription and abandonment exception. 

Joseph Barlow’s case is a cautionary tale, underscoring the importance of diligently adhering to administrative procedures before pursuing a personal injury claim. This case emphasizes the role of competent legal representation in guiding individuals through the intricacies of personal injury claims and ensuring that all necessary steps are taken before resorting to legal action. By understanding and adhering to the established procedures, individuals can strengthen their position and maximize their chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in their personal injury cases.

Additional Sources: JOSEPH BARLOW versus MARK GARBER

Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Gabriela Chilingarova

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