Articles Posted in Louisiana Personal Injury Law

When determining whether the intentional injury exclusion — “expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured” — will preclude personal liability insurance coverage, the subjective intent of the insured, as well as his reasonable expectations as to the scope of his insurance coverage, will determine whether an act is intentional. An act is intended if the perpetrator desires the results of his action or he believes that the results are substantially certain to occur. The insured’s subjective intent or expectation must be determined not only from the insured’s words before, at the time of, and after the pertinent conduct, but from all the facts and circumstances bearing on such intent or expectation. Breland v. Schilling, 550 So.2d 609 (La.1989). See also, Great American Ins. Co. v. Gaspard, 608 So.2d 981 (La.1992). In Breland, the Louisiana Supreme Court held:

We hold, therefore, that when minor bodily injury is intended, and such results, the injury is barred from coverage. When serious bodily injury is intended, and such results, the injury is also barred from coverage. When a severe injury of a given sort is intended, and a severe injury of any sort occurs, then coverage is also barred. But when minor injury is intended, and a substantially greater or more severe injury results, whether by chance, coincidence, accident, or whatever, coverage for the more severe injury is not barred. Whether a given resulting bodily injury was intended “from the standpoint of the insured” within these parameters is a question of fact. Such factual determinations are the particular province of the trier of fact, in this instance the trial jury. Breland, 550 So.2d at 614.

In McBride v. Estis Well Service, 12-30714 (5th Cir. 10/2/13), the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Jones Act Seamen may recover punitive damages for their employer’s willful and wanton breach of the general maritime law duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. Such breach reflects a reckless disregard for the safety of the crew, who remain “wards of admiralty” deserving special protection under maritime law.

The general maritime law cause of action (unseaworthiness) and remedy (punitive damages) were established before passage of the Jones Act, and the Jones Act did not address that cause of action or remedy. Thus, the Fifth Circuit held that the punitive damages remedy remains available under that unseaworthiness cause of action unless and until Congress intercedes.

The Court concluded as follows: “Like maintenance and cure, unseaworthiness was established as a general maritime claim before the passage of the Jones Act, punitive damages were available under general maritime law, and the Jones Act does not address unseaworthiness or limit its remedies. We conclude, therefore, that punitive damages remain available to seamen as a remedy for the general maritime law claim of unseaworthiness.”

The Fifth Circuit cited as authority three law review and journal articles authored by University of Texas School of Law Distinguished Teaching Professor and W. Page Keeton Chair in Tort Law, David W. Robertson. Professor Robertson is one of the nation’s leading experts in admiralty law and serves of counsel to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana admiralty and maritime law firm of Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews.
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BATON ROUGE–Eleven neighbors of the Monolyte Labs Inc. chemical facility in Slaughter, Louisiana filed a lawsuit in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge on September 24, 2013 for injuries and damages that resulted from the November 9, 2012, explosion and fire that destroyed the facility and required a middle-of-the-night evacuation of residents from their homes.

The residents, represented by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana personal injury law firm of Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews are experiencing a range of symptoms resulting from the blaze and subsequent protracted and continuing cleanup of the site. The fire destroyed the facility, which blended various toxic chemicals for use in the water treatment industry. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality had to repeatedly issue orders to owners of the facility to clean up the extensive chemical release and spill that resulted from the fire. Extremely strong chemical odors permeated blocks around the plant site for months following the explosion and fire.

Plaintiffs have experienced respiratory and other ailments since the incident. The five-year-old daughter of a couple whose home was near the Monolyte facility has required more than 20 trips to doctors and hospitals–some by ambulance–for treatment of respiratory problems since the Nov. 9 fire and release of chemicals. The lawsuit also claims losses other than physical injuries, such as diminished property values.

Sitting en banc, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently affirmed the highest general damage award to a minor child for the wrongful death of a parent in Louisiana. The jury awarded $2.5 million in general damages to the minor boy for the devastating loss of his non-custodial mother, with whom he had a close relationship. The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal approved the following separate elements of wrongful death general damages and explained how each was different from the other:

1) Past, present and future mental anguish, grief and anxiety
2) Past, present and future loss of love and affection
3) Past, present and future loss of society, services and consortium

Mental anguish and grief refers to the pain, discomfort, inconvenience, anguish, and emotional trauma that accompany the injury. This includes the initial shock, anxiety, and distress that a minor child experiences as a result of the loss of a parent. Put another way, grief is the presence of an emotion as a result of a loved one’s death.

Loss of love and affection, on the other hand, goes beyond the initial grief and emotional trauma. These damages compensate the minor child for the enduring and irreversible loss of his parent. While grief and anguish will wane over time, the minor child will always feel the absence of the traditional characteristics of the parent-child relationship. Loss of love and affection is the absence of an experience; specifically, the absence of a love previously bestowed.

The factors for loss of consortium include loss of society and companionship, loss of support and family income, and loss of performance of material services, including educational and household help for children.

Rachel v. Brouillette, 12-794 (La.App. 3 Cir. 3/13/13), 111 So.3d 1137, 1142-43, writ denied, 2013-0690 (La.5/3/13), 113 So.3d 217 (Affirming the jury’s general damage award of $1 million for past, present and future mental anguish, grief and anxiety; $1 million for past, present, and future loss of love and affection; and $500,000 for loss of society, services and consortium. An additional $300,000 award for loss of support was also affirmed.).

Prior to Rachel, $750,000 was the highest general damage award ever affirmed by a Louisiana court for the wrongful death of a minor child’s parent. See Raymond v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co., 09-1327 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/2/10), 40 So.3d 1179, writ denied, 10-1569 (La.10/8/10), 46 So.3d 1268.
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On May 22, 2013, Randy Piedrahita and the Baton Rouge, Louisiana law firm of Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews were chosen by the government of Baton Rouge to represent Baton Rouge in its claims for millions of dollars in losses attendant to the BP oil spill. Randy and the Dué firm will begin working with Farrell and Patel, a Florida firm with extensive experience with BP oil spill claims, which had previously filed suit for Baton Rouge.

Read the article in The Advocate.

Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews also represents private citizens and businesses injured by the BP oil spill, the worst natural catastrophe in American history. Its clients include fishermen, processors, leaseholders, businesses and restaurants directly injured by the spill, both locally and as far away as Tennessee.
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Louisiana Trial Lawyer, B. Scott Andrews, of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana personal injury law firm of Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews, has been selected for membership in The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Scott Andrews is already a 2012-2013 member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40.

The National Trial Lawyers is a member-driven organization composed of premier trial lawyers from across the country who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff trial lawyers. Through educational and networking opportunities, the organization strives to help its members build law practices which encompass superior knowledge, skill, experience and success.

Only top trial lawyers from Louisiana who are actively practicing in civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law are eligible for invitation. Invitees must demonstrate superior qualifications, leadership skills, and trial results as a legal professional. The selection process for this elite honor is based on a multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third party research. Prospective members of The National Trial Lawyers are carefully screened prior to receiving an invitation for membership. Membership is not automatically renewed; attorneys are reevaluated annually to determine whether their activities and accomplishments qualify them for continued membership.
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Every member (Paul H. DuéKirk A. Guidry, Randy A. Piedrahita and B. Scott Andrews) of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana personal injury law firm of Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews has been named to the 2013 Super Lawyers list for Louisiana. The reason is clear – more than 25 years handling referrals of complex and difficult personal injury cases from lawyers around the world. This success is rooted in academia, with all firm members having graduated at the top of their law school class and having served as members of or as editors of their Law Reviews. The firm boasts former Louisiana Supreme Court and U.S. Fifth Circuit law clerks, Adjunct Professors of Law, past Presidents of the Louisiana Association for Justice, and both a former Louisiana appellate judge and an esteemed University of Texas Law Professor “of counsel”.

This background, combined with hard work and extensive experience, has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. This success has been shared with the many attorneys who refer cases to the firm – who find the firm’s experience and funding assistance invaluable in representing their clients.

The members of Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews combine their academic backgrounds, practical trial experience and financial “staying power” to add up to success for clients and the lawyers trusting the firm with referrals.
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Baton Rouge, Louisiana personal injury trial lawyer, Paul H. Dué, has been selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America, 19th edition for his work in the practice areas of Admiralty & Maritime Law, Personal Injury Litigation, and Product Liability Litigation. Listing in the 2013 edition marks fifteen years since Paul H. Dué was first listed in Best Lawyers. Through this distinction Paul H. Dué has proven to be a consistent and dedicated member of the law community.

Selection for Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive and rigorous peer-review survey comprised of more than 4 million confidential evaluations by the top attorneys in the country. Our annual Best Lawyers publication has been described by The American Lawyer as “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.” Because no fee or purchase is required, being listed in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

Best Lawyers in America is one of the most visible and targeted peer review publications in the legal profession.

Dué, Guidry Piedrahita & Andrews has been named to the U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” 2013 list, with first tier rankings in Personal Injury Litigation-Plaintiffs and Product Liability-Plaintiff. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana personal injury law firm has been ranked in the first tier every year since the inception of the Best Law Firms rankings.

The U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers 2013 “Best Law Firms” rankings provide a comprehensive view of the U.S. legal profession that is unprecedented both in the range of firms represented and in the range of qualitative and quantitative data used to develop the rankings.

The third edition of these rankings features law firms given consistently impressive performance ratings by clients and peers. Achieving a high ranking is a special distinction that signals a unique combination of excellence and breadth of expertise.

“In the absence of bad faith, a liability insurer generally is free to settle or to litigate at its own discretion, without liability to its insured for a judgment in excess of the policy limits. William Shelby McKenzie & H. Alston Johnson, III, 15 Louisiana Civil Law Treatise-Insurance Law and Practice § 218 (1986). On the other hand, a liability insurer is the representative of the interests of its insured, and the insurer, when handling claims, must carefully consider not only its own self-interest, but also its insured’s interest so as to protect the insured from exposure to excess liability. Holtzclaw v. Falco, Inc., 355 So.2d 1279 (La.1978) (on rehearing). Thus, a liability insurer owes its insured the duty to act in good faith and to deal fairly in handling claims. Id.Smith v. Audubon Ins. Co., 679 So.2d 372 (La.1996).

“[T]he determination of whether the insurer acted in bad faith turns on the facts and circumstances of each case. Of course, an insurer is not obliged to compromise litigation just because the claimant offers to settle a claim for serious injuries within the policy limits, and its failure to do so is not by itself proof of bad faith. The determination of good or bad faith in an insurer’s deciding to proceed to trial involves the weighing of such factors, among others, as the probability of the insured’s liability, the extent of the damages incurred by the claimant, the amount of the policy limits, the adequacy of the insurer’s investigation, and the openness of communications between the insurer and the insured. Nevertheless, when an insurer has made a thorough investigation and the evidence developed in the investigation is such that reasonable minds could differ over the liability of the insured, the insurer has the right to choose to litigate the claim, unless other factors, such as a vast difference between the policy limits and the insured’s total exposure, dictate a decision to settle the claim.” Id.

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