Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions
LaBauve, et al. v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co., et al.
Opinion Date: April 13, 2022
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury
This litigation arose from a medical malpractice suit brought by plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of their minor daughter, against Dr. Daryl Elias, Jr. and his insurer. Plaintiffs alleged Dr. Elias committed malpractice during the child’s delivery, causing a separated right shoulder and a broken clavicle. Plaintiffs also alleged the child suffered permanent injury when the five nerve roots of her brachial plexus were completely and partially avulsed from the spinal cord, causing her to lose the use of her right arm. At the conclusion of trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants, finding the treatment provided by Dr. Elias to the child did not fall below the applicable standard of care for an obstetrician gynecologist. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case for the primary purpose of addressing two narrow issues: (1) whether any errors in the district court’s evidentiary rulings interdicted the jury’s fact-finding process; and (2) if so, whether the court of appeal erred in reviewing the record de novo. The court of appeal found the district court committed prejudicial legal error in excluding the child's treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kozin’s testimony in part and permitting defendant's retained expert, Dr. Grimm, to testify. The Supreme Court found no error in the judgment of the court of appeal insofar as it reversed the district court’s ruling limiting Dr. Kozin from testifying as to the cause of the child’s injuries: "a review of Dr. Kozin’s excluded testimony reveals he did not render any opinions on whether Dr. Elias breached the standard of care or was otherwise negligent. Rather, he simply testified as to the cause of the child’s injury, explaining that based on his expertise, he was 'certain the force applied by the delivering physician led to this injury.'" The district court erred in restricting his testimony. However, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its great discretion in finding Dr. Grimm’s testimony was admissible under the standards set forth in La. Code Evid. art. 702 and Daubert/Foret. The court of appeal erred in reversing the district court’s evidentiary ruling. Furthermore, the Court held the court of appeal abused its discretion by undertaking a de novo review of the record rather than remanding the case for a new trial. In all other respects, the judgment of the court of appeal was vacated, and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
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US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Solis v. Serrett
Opinion Date: April 21, 2022
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law
Appellee sued officers asserting various Section 1983 claims including excessive force, unreasonable seizure due to an arrest without probable cause, malicious prosecution, violation of her First Amendment rights for arresting her in retaliation for filming the officers, and violation of her Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court held that disputed issues of material fact barred summary judgment on the excessive force claim and that, viewing the facts in Appellee’s favor, the officers violated a clearly established right.
The Fifth Circuit denied Appellee’s motion to dismiss, reversed the district court’s order denying Appellant’s motion for summary judgment, and remanded with instructions that Appellee’s claims be dismissed.
The court analyzed the officers’ actions and found that their conduct was not so objectively unreasonable as to violate Appellee’s constitutional rights. First, Appellee’s minor injuries weigh in favor of finding qualified immunity. Second, qualified immunity can apply even when only one factor weighs against the plaintiff. Finally, it was reasonable of Appellants to believe that, in light of Appellee’s interjections, comments, resistance, and indignation, some degree of force would be necessary to subdue her. The court further held that even if the officers violated Appellee’s constitutional rights, the right was not clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.
Edwards v. Oliver
Opinion Date: April 19, 2022
Judge: Carolyn Dineen King
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Personal Injury
A fifteen-year-old boy was shot and killed by Defendant, a then-officer responding to a 911 call about possible underage drinking. The boy’s family and friends sued Defendant and the City of Balch Springs alleging excessive force. Later, Defendant was separately convicted of murder. The district court denied Defendant’s summary judgment motion claiming qualified immunity.
On appeal, Defendant argued that the facts at the moment of the threat are undisputed and urged the court to exercise jurisdiction over the case on the issue of materiality. The court found that the resolution of this factual dispute is material because it affects both whether Defendant’s use of force was reasonable and whether the force he used violated clearly established law. The court found that if a jury accepts Plaintiffs’ version of the facts as true, particularly as to what occurred in the moments before Defendant shot at the car, the jury could conclude that the officers violated Plaintiffs’ clearly established right to be free from excessive force. Thus, because the factual dispute is material, the court ruled that it lacks jurisdiction to consider the propriety of the summary judgment denial. The court dismissed Defendant’s interlocutory appeal and remanded for further proceedings.
BITCO Gen Ins v. Monroe Guar Ins
Opinion Date: April 12, 2022
Areas of Law: Contracts, Insurance Law
BITCO General Insurance Corporation (“BITCO”) and Monroe Guaranty Insurance Company (“Monroe”) issued general liability insurance policies to 5D Drilling & Pump Service Inc. (“5D”). A property owner sued 5D for breach of contract and negligence. BITCO sought a declaratory judgment that Monroe also owed a duty to defend 5D.
The parties dispute whether any “property damage” alleged could have occurred during Monroe’s policy period. The magistrate found that damage must have occurred during a period when Monroe’s policy was in force.
The court reasoned that under Texas law, courts determine whether an insurer’s duty to defend has been triggered by using the “eight corners” rule. The party seeking coverage has the initial burden of establishing that the underlying claims potentially state a cause of action. When pleadings in the underlying lawsuit have been amended, the court analyzes the duty to defend by examining the “latest, and only the latest, amended pleadings.”
Typically, the eight-corners rule prevents courts from considering any extrinsic evidence. Texas law recognizes a limited exception to the eight-corners rule when it is impossible to discern whether coverage is potentially implicated and when the extrinsic evidence goes solely to a fundamental issue of coverage.
Monroe contends that even if the owner’s pleading alleges damage within its policy period, it still has no duty to defend because all the damage falls within policy exclusions. The court found that Monroe cannot carry its burden because it cannot show that either exception unambiguously applies. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s order.
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Seguin v. Remington Arms
Opinion Date: April 8, 2022
Judge: Leslie Southwick
Areas of Law: Personal Injury, Products Liability
Plaintiff was injured while she, her father, and others were tracking a wounded deer at night in the woods. Her father’s Remington Model 710 rifle accidentally discharged and injured her. Plaintiff and her family members filed suit in the district court.
At issue before the circuit court is whether the district court erred when it held that Section 60 of the LPLA did not bar her from bringing a claim under Section 56 of the LPLA, which is a general section applicable to design-defect claims.
The LPLA “establishes the exclusive theories of liability for manufacturers for damage caused by their products.” LA. STAT. ANN. Sec. 9:2800.52. The court found is that Section 60(B) unambiguously bars design defect claims. Plaintiff argues that because Section 60(C) precludes claims against manufacturers for improper use of firearms, that part of the statute is superfluous if Section 60(B) had already precluded all non-Section 55 manufacturing-defect claims against manufacturers.
The court found Section 60(C) precludes claims based on conduct by a broader category of actors than Section 60(B). Further, the court disagreed with plaintiff’s argument that Remington’s interpretation would render Section 60(D) Section 60(E) superfluous. Section 60(B) does not block all failure-to-warn claims but only those based on harm resulting from a shooting injury by a specific actor subset. Finally, the court found that the plain text leads to preventing a meaningful category of potential claims against the manufacturers of firearms. The court reversed and rendered judgment for defendant.
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US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Defense Distributed v. Bruck
Opinion Date: April 1, 2022
Judge: Edith H. Jones
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law
Appellants (“Defense Distributed”) have challenged publication restraints imposed by the U.S. State Department, federal courts, and the State of New Jersey (“NJ”) after appellants published the internet computer-assisted design (“CAD”) files for a single-round plastic pistol. Although Defense Distributed is still prevented from publishing, the CAD files it published remain available on many other websites. At issue in this combined appeal and motion for mandamus relief stems from a district court’s (“DC”) order severing the case and transferring it to a federal court in NJ. The court found that the Defense Distributed satisfied the first two conditions for mandamus relief. Further, the NJ Attorney General did not carry its burden to demonstrate that transfer is more appropriate than the plaintiffs’ choice of forum.
The court concluded that the DC’s order severing and transferring the claims against the NJAG to the District of New Jersey was a clear abuse of discretion, giving rise to an appropriate exercise of the court’s mandamus power.
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