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Louisiana Court Holds City Not Liable for State Employee’s Negligent Conduct That Harmed Inmate Being Transported According to City-State Agreement

In an appeal addressing liability for negligent conduct that led to injuries in a car accident, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal focused on rules of contract interpretation.  Language within an agreement must be interpreted according to the common intent of the parties, which means assessing the general, plain meaning of the words in the contract. In this case, the issue was whether an agreement between the City and the State precluded the City’s liability for negligent acts by State employees. The plaintiff in this case suffered injuries in a car accident as a passenger in a van when the driver collided with another vehicle.  The plaintiff, an inmate passenger, was being transported as part of an Interagency agreement between the City of DeRidder and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The City owned the vehicle, and the driver worked for the State. The City argued that the State should be held responsible for the negligent conduct of its employees, despite the fact that the City was responsible for transporting inmates.

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Judgment Against Defendants in Consolidated Cases Following Truck Accident in Louisiana was Not Valid, Appealable Judgment

In order for appellate courts to have jurisdiction, or the ability to review and determine the merit of an appeal, there must first be a valid final judgment from a lower court. In a recent opinion, the Fourth Circuit made clear that a judgment must contain specific, “decretal” language in order to be considered valid. In this opinion, the issue was whether the judgment was in fact valid, since two lawsuits had been consolidated and judgment rendered against multiple defendants. The appellate court made clear that in order to have jurisdiction, they must have specific language that makes clear against whom the judgment has been rendered, and in which amount.  When the court lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of an appeal, it will be dismissed without prejudice or converted to an application for a supervisory writ. The facts indicated that Larry Spencer’s tractor-trailer collided with a truck in which Joseph Urquhart was a passenger. Urquhart filed a Petition for Damages against Spencer, as well as Mr. Spencer’s employer (the owner of the rig) and their liability insurer.  Urquhart then amended his Petition to add the driver of the vehicle in which he was traveling, James Nye, as well as his insurer. Then, Mr. Nye filed a Petition for Damages against Spencer, the owner of the rig, and the liability insurer. The lawsuits were consolidated, and Urquhart’s claims against Mr. Nye and his insurer were dismissed after reaching a settlement.

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Second FEMA Extension of National Flood Insurance Program Time For Sending Proofs Of Loss Related to Louisiana Mid-Summer Severe Storms

Under normal circumstances when flooding is not severe, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires a policyholder to send the insurer a complete, signed, and sworn-to proof of loss within sixty (60) days after the date of loss. However, when flooding is extensive, the time period may be extended by FEMA pursuant to 44 C.F.R §61.13 (d).  For certain August, 2016 Louisiana flooding, FEMA granted a 60 day extension and is now granting a second 60 day extension. To allow policyholders additional time to finalize their claims, FEMA issue an additional limited waiver of the 60-day proof of loss requirement by extending the period another 60 days. With this extension, a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholder will have a total of 180 days following the date of loss to provide the completed, signed, and sworn-to proof of loss to the insurer. This waiver is issued pursuant to 44 CFR § 61.13(d) and the SFIP. This waiver does not alter any other terms or conditions of the NFIP. The limited waiver applies to all NFIP claims associated with FICO Number 679,4 whether the NFIP issued the policy directly or through the Write Your Own (WYO) Program. For more information about the extension see the full announcement about the new deadline at WYO Company Bulletin W-16089. Properly and timely filing the Proof of Loss (and any Supplemental Proof of Loss) and any necessary supporting documentation is critical for getting paid and for preserving a policyholder’s right to file a NFIP flood insurance lawsuit should […]

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Louisiana Supreme Court Holds Trampoline Park’s Agreement to Arbitrate is Unenforceable

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently addressed whether an indoor trampoline park could compel arbitration according to an agreement signed by the parent of a minor injured while jumping on a trampoline.  In this decision, the court reviewed rules of contract law and examined the specifics of the location and the wording of the arbitration clause to find that in fact it was adhesionary and unenforceable. Sky Zone Lafayette is an indoor trampoline park, and patrons must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” before participating in the facilities at Sky Zone.  The Agreement has a clause that compels arbitration and waives the participant’s right to a trial. The plaintiff in this case completed the Agreement before her husband took their son to Sky Zone. Their son was injured on a trampoline, and the family brought a lawsuit against Sky Zone, individually and on behalf of their son.  They alleged that Sky Zone had been negligent and that this caused their son’s injuries.  Sky Zone responded and sought to compel arbitration under the Agreement. The plaintiffs contended that they did not knowingly consent to arbitration and that the Agreement was ambiguous and adhesional. The district court overruled the exception, and the court of appeal denied Sky Zone’s writ application.

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