Author: Brian Butler

Hurricane Ida: Governor Extends Legal Deadlines

We previously reported that the Louisiana Supreme Court issued Orders suspending prescriptive, peremptive and abandonment periods for thirty days in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Governor John Bel Edwards has now issued a Proclamation. In addition to other actions, the Proclamation provides that legal deadlines applicable to “legal proceedings in all courts, administrative agencies, and boards” are suspended until September 24, 2021.

The Proclamation also authorizes hotels and motels to cancel reservations which would result in the displacement or eviction of first responders, health care workers, or anyone performing disaster-related work.

Hurricane Ida: Supreme Court Suspends Certain Deadlines

In response to Hurricane Ida, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued three Orders which affect litigation in Louisiana:

Proceeding before the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court Clerk of Court’s office will be closed until September 19, 2021. All filings due during this period of closure shall be deemed timely filed if filed on or before Monday, September 20, 2021.
  • Cases scheduled to be heard on the September docket (September 7-9) are postponed to the October docket, the week of October 18, 2021.

Civil Cases Statewide

  • All prescriptive and peremptive periods are hereby suspended statewide for a period of thirty days commencing from August 26, 2021.
  • All periods of abandonment are hereby suspended statewide for thirty days commencing from August 26, 2021.

Criminal Matters

  • The Court also extended time periods in criminal matters but limited the order to parishes most impacted by the storm.

Individual District Courts and Courts of Appeal may take additional actions because of the damage and loss of power experienced in multiple areas of the state.

First Circuit Orders Multiple AMOs Without Audio or Video Recording

Defendants often request an AMO (“Additional Medical Opinion,” formerly called “IME”) under La. Code of Civil Procedure article 1464 which grants the courts power to order the examination of a plaintiff’s physical or mental condition when in controversy.   Increasingly, plaintiff’s counsel will object outright to such examinations or seek to impose onerous restrictions designed to limit or prevent the examination. In Sistrunk v. Florida Marine, LLC, et al, 20-0771 (La. App. 1 Cir. 9/28/20), 2020 WL 575645, the First Circuit rejected limitations sought by the plaintiff and imposed by the trial court.

In Sistrunk, the plaintiff alleged brain injury and psychological problems caused by a blow to the head.  In view of the seriousness of the alleged injuries, the defense requested examinations by a neurologist, neuropsychologist, neurosurgeon, and psychiatrist. In response, the plaintiff agreed to examinations but only in areas plaintiff planned to offer medical testimony and under restrictions to include the presence of a third-party and audio or video recording. Although the trial court ordered the AMOs to move forward, it allowed the presence of a third-party who could then audio or videotape the exams.   With respect to the neuropsychological examination, the trial court rejected observation by a third-party based upon industry standards which do not allow for such observation.

The defense in Sistrunk sought review from the First Circuit. Without comment, the First Circuit rejected the condition imposed by the trial court that the exams be captured through audio or videotaping.  Sistrunk joins similar decisions such as Henry v. Barlow, 06-283 (La. App. 3 Cir. 8/9/06), 937 So. 2d. 895 which likewise prevented audio or videotaping of AMOs. In Henry, the court reasoned that the recording of an AMO would restrict the number of physicians willing to participate.


Brian has been doing defense work for the last 28 years. He has handled all types of defense matters over his career, but in recent years his practice has been focused in serious injury or damage cases and has worked extensively with experts involving complex cases, fire cases, and forensic work. 

Black Boxes: The Secrets Your Vehicle Keeps

By Brian Butler

Many do not realize modern vehicles are always ready to record critical driving information. As with airplanes, most passenger vehicles are now equipped with Event Data Recorders (EDR), or “Black Boxes.” This information may be critical after an accident to show what happened, and who was at fault.

EDRs may record pre-event data for five seconds before and one second after an accident, possibly including vehicle speed, engine speed, percent throttle, change in velocity, and whether the brakes were applied. The make and model of the vehicle will determine what data is available. If you want this data, you must act quickly because it will be “overwritten” at some point if the vehicle continues in use.

It is also important to retain a competent expert to download the data. In Laborde v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co., 82 So. 3rd 1237 (La. 3/9/2011), the trial court excluded the printout of data downloaded from a Black Box because of the boxes “chain of custody” and the method the information downloaded.  It is important that your legal team knows how to obtain and preserve this evidence.

Data from Black Boxes can be useful in many ways. In some cases, it may help to prove that the accident involved a low impact or to show that no brakes were applied. In other cases, it may harm your position, but the data is almost always relevant. There are costs in downloading and interpreting the data. But in the right case, the secrets kept in the Black Box may be the only way to reveal the truth.

Brian has been doing defense work for the last 28 years. He has handled all types of defense matters over his career, but in recent years his practice has been focused in serious injury or damage cases and has worked extensively with experts involving complex cases, fire cases, and forensic work. 

Distracted Driving: More, and More Severe, Accidents

 

**If you’re reading this article while driving, stop reading or driving – your choice**

 

Distracted driving is dangerous and can lead to an accident. Everyone knows this now. But one factor that appears to have gone unnoticed by the public at large is that distracted driving not only results in more automobile accidents, but often causes accidents which are more severe. The reasons why are becoming clear to insurance carriers who write automobile liability policies.

In a January 2017 “earnings call,” Travelers Insurance observed that it was detecting a higher percentage of car crashes at higher speeds. Simple physics shows that higher speeds bring higher forces, and increase the risks involved. Research has shown that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off of the road an average of 5 seconds. If correct, at 55 mph, you will travel 403 feet while not looking at the road. Often times, a driver, even if they cannot avoid an accident, can do something to minimize the consequences, such as braking or taking a better angle to protect the driver or the passengers.

The fact that an insurance company is able to detect an increase in the severity of accidents, in an age where cars are safer than ever before, is something we should all consider.

 

Brian Butler is a partner with Keogh Cox. With over 30 years of experience, Brian has handled all types of defense matters. In recent years, his practice has been focused on cases involving complex cases with serious injuries and damages, which has led to extensive work with experts in complex cases, fire cases, and cases involving extensive forensic investigation. In his free time, Brian enjoys traveling with his wife.