Taylor, Wellons, Politz & Duhe is excited to welcome Caitlin Carrigan, Ginny Deliman, Linnette Goodly, Sammie Henry, and Rachel Roe as its newest partners in 2021. Over many years of dedicated service, each has carried out TWPD’s mission of providing our clients with the most creative and highest quality legal representation. To learn more about TWPD’s newest partners and their areas of practice, please click on their names above.
The firm’s Mississippi attorneys secured summary judgment in favor of a car dealership and repair shop that was sued in the Circuit Court of Prentiss County, Mississippi. The suit arose from a motor vehicle collision allegedly caused by a customer driving a loaner vehicle. The plaintiff demanded $5 million in damages.
The plaintiff sought to attach liability to the car dealership and its deep pocket insurance policies on various theories, including that the customer was an “employee” of the dealership, that the dealership and customer were a “joint venture,” and that the customer was a “permissive user” of the vehicle. These allegations required TWPD to develop a two pronged defense approach. First, the firm won summary judgment defeating the initial claim that the customer was an “employee”, and then defeated plaintiff’s efforts to amend the suit to allege any other theories of liability. With these victories, the state court suit was dismissed. Second, the firm pursued a declaratory judgment action in federal court on behalf of the dealership’s insurer against the customer/defendant driver. The plaintiff in the underlying negligence action moved to intervene in the declaratory action, but was denied intervention. The United States District Court awarded judgment in favor of the insurer, holding that the insurer owed no obligation to defend or indemnify the customer because he did not qualify as an insured under the dealership’s policy.
TWPD’s two-pronged approach to proactively address the liability and insurance coverage issues resulted in a successful conclusion of this claim for the insurer, foreclosing any liability under the policy, and benefitted the insured dealership by eliminating any potential excess exposure for the collision involving its loaner vehicle.
TWPD secured vital application of federal law in applying the immunity provisions of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”). In Hulin v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., 2020 WL 307 2187, plaintiff filed suit against Avondale Shipyards’ successor company and its executive officers seeking damages for contracting mesothelioma as a result of his alleged exposure to asbestos while employed at Avondale from 1956 to 1973. The plaintiff contended his exposures to asbestos occurred both while working on ships in the water and also while he worked on land. Before 1972, a plaintiff was allowed to elect his remedy if he was injured on land and he could pursue a state tort claim against his employer in lieu of receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Application of the LHWCA would bar the plaintiff’s tort claims, but plaintiff argued that state law and the law in effect at the time of the alleged exposure should apply, in which case the tort claim would be valid. TWPD represented Lamorak Insurance, one of Avandale’s insurers, and joined in a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing the plaintiff’s claims were governed by the current version of the LHWCA and therefore barred by LHWCA's immunity provision. The federal court agreed, dismissing the plaintiff’s state law tort claims. This ruling undermines 20 years of contrary state court rulings allowing these matters to proceed in tort and, going forward, will have great implications for all shipyard asbestos claims in Louisiana state and federal courts.
During a bench trial in New Iberia, LA District Court in September of 2020, TWPD successfully defended an apartment complex against plaintiff’s claims of a slip-and-fall. Plaintiff claims she was walking along the property’s sidewalk with her boyfriend and their three young children when she encountered an obstruction of concrete bags on the sidewalk, forcing her to cut through the grass. While walking through the grass, she claims she stepped in a hole in the ground obscured by uncut grass that caused her to fall and injure her foot.
During plaintiff’s presentation of her case at trial, TWPD’s lawyers impeached several points of her testimony that contradicted her pre-trial deposition: including the size of the hole, the location of the alleged concrete bags, and where she fell on the property. Plaintiff also contradicted her own trial testimony on several occasions relative to her injuries – first claiming she did not cut her foot in the hole, then claiming she did cut her foot after she was shown medical records noting lacerations and debris removal on her heel. This testimony was not logical since she was wearing shoes at the time of the alleged accident. Finally, plaintiff’s own physician testified he had no information indicating the plaintiff’s foot injuries were caused by a fall at the apartment complex. At the close of plaintiff’s presentation, TWPD’s lawyers convinced the presiding judge to dismiss plaintiff’s case in its entirety without any further defense evidence required.
The firm’s Mississippi attorneys secured summary judgment in favor of their client regarding a UM matter. In addition to suing the two commercial trucking companies for negligence arising from a collision, Plaintiffs sued their own carrier for benefits under the UM/UIM coverage of their personal auto policy. Under Mississippi’s UM law, in order to have a claim for UM/UIM benefits, the claimant must establish that the tortfeasor is either uninsured or underinsured. To be “uninsured” within the meaning of the statute requires a showing that the tortfeasor has no liability insurance coverage or that the liability carrier has legally denied coverage for the accident. The definition of uninsured also includes an unidentified motorist when there has been contact that caused an accident. For a motorist to be “underinsured” requires a comparison of all the tortfeasors’ liability limits applicable to the accident,with to the limits of coverage under the plaintiff’s own UM/UIM policy.Mississippi law allows the limits for each insured vehicle under the plaintiffs’ policy to be aggregated or “stacked” for purposes of this limits-to-limits analysis. Thus, in order to trigger a claim for underinsured motorist coverage under Mississippi law, as the plaintiffs did in this case,the insured plaintiffs must have UM/UIM coverage with limits of liability greater than the tortfeasors’ combined coverage. In this case, the tortfeasors each had $3,000,000 in liability limits, for an aggregate of $6,000,000 in liability limits. The plaintiffs had an aggregate of $300,000 in UM/UIM coverage and, therefore were unable to satisfy their burden of establishing that the tortfeasors were “underinsured.”
TWPD’s Baton Rouge office succeeded in having a suit against a Louisiana school board dismissed on summary judgment. The plaintiffs alleged the school board was vicariously liable for a teacher’s secretive, bizarre, and inappropriate communications and interactions with a minor student. We presented undisputed evidence that the school board’s pre-employment background check on the teacher revealed no prior criminal history or complaints. It was further undisputed that the student’s mother never reported the communications to the school board nor did she report the teacher visiting with the minor student after school hours, which occurred with the mother’s permission. With this evidence, TWPD convinced the court that plaintiffs could not prove the school board breached its duty of reasonable supervision or that the teacher’s intentional acts occurred in the course and scope of his employment. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the School Board, dismissing the suit in its entirety.
The firm’s Baton Rouge attorneys recently won a Motion for Summary Judgment that resulted in the complete dismissal of a plaintiff’s suit against a national hardware and home improvement store. The plaintiff alleged he slipped and fell in a puddle of water that was near the store’s entrance. He allegedly did not see the water before his fall, and he could not say how long the water had been on the ground. TWPD obtained sworn affidavits from store employees, testifying they did not see any water on the ground prior to the subject accident. We argued the plaintiff could not meet his burden of proof under the Louisiana Merchant Liability Act, because he could not establish the defendant store created the complained-of condition, had actual notice of the water on the ground, or the water had been on the ground for a period of time sufficient to establish the store should have known it was there. The federal court was persuaded by these arguments, and granted summary judgment in favor of our client, resulting in dismissal of the case with prejudice.
TWPD’s Mississippi office recently secured a favorable summary judgment in a premise liability matter. Our client was a retail home improvement and hardware store.The plaintiff was in the store shopping for paint, and tripped and fell on a large blue lowboy cart that was in the aisle. The cart was one of several used by employees for restocking shelves. During discovery, the plaintiff admitted he observed the cart while speaking to a store employee. As he walked away from the conversation, he backed into the cart, tripped and fell.
TWPD argued the lowboy cart was not an unreasonably dangerous condition and thus the plaintiff could not meet his burden in proving the store was negligent. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi agreed with this position, reasoning that lowboy carts were the type of objects customers should reasonably expect to encounter in a similar retail business.As a result, the Court granted summary judgment, dismissing the case against our client with prejudice.
TWPD’s Mississippi attorneys won summary judgment for a BMW dealership in a case alleging negligent repairs and service. After the owner had put more than 430 miles on the vehicle after the repair shop’s service, the car’s engine “jumped time.” The affidavit of a BMW master technician established that there was no fault code, audible noise, or any visual inspection that indicated any issue with the timing components when the car was in the repair shop. The Lauderdale County Court found a lack of evidence to establish that the repair shop had breached any duty or that there was any causal connection between the work the repair shop performed and the timing component failure that occurred weeks later. TWPD’s attorneys identified the causation issue early in the litigation and pursued summary judgment even before discovery got underway, minimizing the litigation expenses and ending the risk of exposure for the client.
The firm’s Baton Rouge attorneys secured summary dismissal of a plaintiff’s premise liability suit filed in Lafayette, Louisiana. The defendant was a local supermarket. Plaintiff tripped over a piece of plastic that the supermarket used to display its price tags. The Judge agreed that plaintiff did not present any evidence that the supermarket caused the plastic piece to fall or how long the plastic piece had been on the ground before plaintiff tripped on it. The Judge also believed the plastic piece was “open and obvious” to all because it was approximately 3 – 3 ½ feet long, had multiple price tags stuck onto it, and because plaintiff had walked up and down the aisle on several occasions before he tripped on it.
After a lengthy negotiation process, the Louisiana Legislature passed a new tort reform bill on June 30, 2020. Governor Edwards then signed House Bill 57, the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020 into law. Although the bill’s proponents did not get all the reform measures initially proposed, supporters believe it is a step in the right direction for trying to lower Louisiana’s high insurance rates. The bill:
David Ball and Don Keenan’s website boasts $7.7 billion in “Reptile Verdicts and Settlements” since the publishing of their book, Reptile: the 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution. The manual touts research and methods to exploit a jury’s most primitive instincts of safety and self-preservation to maximize injury verdicts. The strategy is to engender a certain fear in jurors,such that the response is a desire to attack the defendant, rather than the desire to assess the true cause of an accident and the fair value of plaintiff’s damages. Especially in cases in which large companies are made defendants because they employed the person who allegedly caused the accident,the strategy is to paint the company as bad actor, one that places profits over the safety of the jury’s community, who should be punished.
A common Reptilian approach in Louisiana is an attempt to show that a company was negligent in its hiring, training,and supervision of its employees. To support these allegations, plaintiffs will conduct costly and extensive discovery into a company’s internal policies and safety procedures. Even if some deficiencies could be found on those issues, in most cases it will have no relation whatsoever to the employee’s conduct in the subject accident. But plaintiffs will nevertheless portray these policies and procedures as insufficient and hazardous,hoping to convinces the jury that an accident was bound to happen, thus justifying punishing the company for conduct wholly unrelated to the facts of the accident at issue.
To combat this approach, defendant companies must show at the earliest stages of the litigation that there is no such viable separate claim against the company for conduct not related to the cause of the accident at issue. Our firm has been successful in this regard. Unless the facts show otherwise, we admit that the allegedly negligent employee was“in the course and scope” of his/her employment when the accident occurred. Thus, our client admits that it will be responsible if in fact the employee’s negligent conduct is found to be the cause of the accident. We then move to dismiss any separate negligence claims against the company, so that the employee’s conduct is the only conduct for the jury to address. Getting these separate claims dismissed not only circumvents a plaintiff’s ability to paint the employer as a “bad, dangerous company,” but also narrows the scope of discovery and evidence that may be admitted at trial.
Let us put these defensive tactics to work for your company.
Our firm’s Baton Rouge attorneys recently convinced the Louisiana Supreme Court to dismiss a personal injury suit against our client. The plaintiff in this automobile accident case filed suit in Louisiana almost two years after the accident. The statute of limitations in Louisiana is one year. Thus, TWPD immediately sought dismissal of the suit on the grounds that it was filed too late. However, because the accident at issue occurred in Texas rendering Texas’ substantive law applicable to the case, the plaintiff argued that Texas’ two-year statute of limitations also applied. The trial court and court of appeals agreed with the plaintiff and held that the suit was timely filed. TWPD took the case to the Supreme Court and won. The Supreme Court agreed with TWPD’s position that Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitation was controlling, and dismissed the suit.
When used properly, the Form 1010A can ensure doctors are providing all necessary information and complying with the MTG.
If you have any questions about how to calculate judicial interest, please give us a call.
Using SIF Questionnaires can be a pivotal part of the employment and workers’ compensation process. Call us with any questions.
Second Injury Fund, when pursued properly, can help offset costs of expensive claims involving workers with pre-existing conditions and also serve as the basis of a 1208.1 fraud claim.
These guidelines contained some marked changes in the area of pain management.
Our lawyers frequently present seminars before risk and management teams for insurance companies and other corporations across the country on a variety of legal topics. These seminars are regularly approved for CE/CLE credits by several states. Here is a list of our most recent seminars:
AZ, GA, TX, NH, CT, FL
LA, TX, OH
LA, TX, NC
LA, TX, NC, DE, FL
LA, TX, NC
LA, TX, MS
LA, TX, MS
AZ, GA, NH, NJ, LA, TX, CT, PA
LA, TX, NC
LA, TX, CT, NC