Timely Filings and the Road to Justice: The Implications of Abandonment in Civil Litigation

number_three_three_wood-scaledNavigating the intricacies of civil litigation requires strict adherence to procedural rules, as the failure to meet deadlines or follow the correct timeline can result in serious consequences for plaintiffs seeking justice. In the case of Michael Neal Rollins, an inmate who filed a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, Louis Ackal, Sheriff of Iberia Parish, and the Corrections Corporation of America, the impact of missed deadlines and abandoned filings became evident. Rollins alleged physical abuse during his transportation back to the Iberia Parish Jail, but his case was ultimately dismissed due to abandonment. This instance highlights the critical importance of timely and diligent filings within the legal system, emphasizing the need for plaintiffs to navigate the complex procedural landscape to have their claims heard.

Rollins filed a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, Louis Ackal, Sheriff of Iberia Parish, and the Corrections Corporation of America. Rollins was an inmate incarcerated at the Iberia Parish Jail in New Iberia. In 2008, Rollins was returned to the Iberia Parish Jail from prison in Winn Parish, having been evacuated there during Hurricane Gustav. After his subsequent release, Rollins filed his suit against the State of Louisiana in 2009 for injuries he suffered while transporting back to the Iberia Parish Jail from Winn Parish. Rollins alleged that officers physically abused him on the bus and in the Iberia Parish Jail parking lot.  

Over seven years later, in 2017, the State of Louisiana filed a Motion to Dismiss the suit on the grounds of abandonment. The state claimed that there had been no filings or steps taken to proceed with the case since 2014. The plaintiff filed a counter-motion, alleging that it had filed a motion requesting discovery materials from the defense. The defendants argued that one of the defendants, Sheriff Louis Ackal, never received these requests. The district court ruled in favor of the defense, stating that failure to serve the request to all the defendants negates it as a step in prosecuting the action. Thus the district court dismissed the case in its decision, from which the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court looked to the definition of abandonment outlined by Louisiana law and relevant cases. Specifically, an action is considered abandoned after no step has been taken in moving the case forward over three years. These actions must either be formal in the trial court or an authorized request for discovery served on all parties. Giglio v. State. The Louisiana Supreme Court also specifically ruled that a request for discovery that is not served to all defendants is unsuccessful in preventing an action from being dismissed under the cause of abandonment. Guillory v. Pelican Real Estate

Citing these cases and the very specific language of Louisiana’s Rules of Civil Procedure, the appellate court upheld the district court’s decision. Rollin’s claims of abuse by state and parish officials were dismissed outright without a chance of being presented to a judge or jury for judgment on the facts of the case. The rules that govern litigation are not as malleable as some may believe. Adhering to these rules is critical in ensuring that plaintiffs have their claims presented to the court in full and addressed on their merits rather than through technicalities of the court system. 

This case is a stark reminder of the significance of timely filings and adherence to procedural rules in civil litigation. This outcome highlights the strict nature of civil procedure rules and their potential impact on individuals seeking justice. It underscores the importance of adhering to these rules to ensure that plaintiffs can present their claims before a judge or jury, allowing for a fair and thorough examination of the merits of their case. In litigation, procedural compliance can make all the difference in ensuring that claims are heard on their substantive merits rather than being dismissed due to technicalities.


Author: Colin McGinness

Other Berniard Law Firm Articles on Abandonment in Court: Blind Trust: The Importance of Timely Appeals in Personal Injury Cases; Lawsuit Over Car Accident Involving Louisiana State Employee Dismissed After Three Years of Inactivity by Plaintiff; Does Scheduling A Court Status Conference Stop Case Abandonment?

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