Author: Cole C. Frazier

Supreme Court Abrogates Louisiana’s “Professional Rescuer’s Doctrine”

Historically, Louisiana law provided that a professional rescuer injured in the performance of his or her duties “assumes the risk” of an injury and is not entitled to damages. See Worley v. Winston, 550 So.2d 694, 696 (La. App. 2 Cir.), writ denied, 551 So.2d 1342 (La. 1989). This is known as the Professional Rescuer’s Doctrine and applied as a defense to claims raised by firefighters, policeman, and others. The doctrine prevented recovery because the professional rescuer “assumed the risk” of injury. Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court in Doe v. McKesson, 2021-00929 (La. 3/25/22) rejected the doctrine as a bar to suit by the professional rescuer.

In Doe, the Supreme Court of Louisiana accepted a certified question from the Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals as to the viability of the doctrine. In response, the Supreme Court held that the Professional Rescuer’s Doctrine has been abrogated in Louisiana both legislatively under La. C.C. art. 2323 and jurisprudentially in Murray v. Ramada Inns, Inc., 521 So.2d 1123, 1132 (La. 1988).

The Court cited La. C.C. art. 2323(A), which provides that the fault of “all persons […] shall be determined” in a civil action. Subsection (B) of the article provides this rule applies “to any claim for recovery of damages for injury, death, or loss asserted under any law or legal doctrine or theory of liability, regardless of the basis of liability.”

In Murray, the Supreme Court previously held that the doctrine of assumption of risk no longer had a place in Louisiana tort law following the adoption of comparative fault. Nevertheless, the Murray Court identified two exceptions:

  • Cases “where the plaintiff, by oral or written agreement, expressly waives or releases a future right to recover damages from the defendant,” if “no public policy concerns would invalidate such a waiver, the plaintiff’s right to recover damages may be barred on a release theory;” and
  • “[I]n the sports spectator or amusement park cases (common law’s “implied primary” assumption of risk cases).”

Murray, 521 So.2d at 1134. (internal citations omitted).

The Doe court observed that Murray provided no exception relative to professional rescuers. The Court further observed that, while the legislature had enacted statutes that bar plaintiff recovery in other settings, no such statute had been passed to codify the Professional Rescuer’s Doctrine.

Although professional rescuers injured in the performance of their duties may still be found at fault, the is no longer an automatic bar to suit.

A Decade Old Article Finds New Life: Televised Testimony

Courts across the country now grapple with the changing face of trials in a time of social distancing and spikes of COVID-19 complicated by the confines of the courtroom. Attorneys and litigants must also adapt to this new “normal.” In this setting, an older law may help to bring new technology into the courtroom.

COVID-19 spawned the immediate use of videoconferencing and other technology in the courtroom. Fortunately, over a decade prior to the current pandemic, the Louisiana Legislature adopted Louisiana Civil Code of Procedure article 1633.1 which expressly provides for live televised testimony at a trial. Pursuant to Article 1633.1:

The court may order, upon a showing of appropriate safeguards, live testimony of a witness to be presented in open court by teleconference, video link, or other visual remote technology, if the witness is beyond the subpoena power of the court or when compelling circumstances are shown. The order may be entered at a pretrial conference or, in exceptional circumstances, on motion set for hearing at least ten days prior to trial or at another time that does not prejudice the parties.

The Article, titled “Live trial testimony by video,” does not limit the live video testimony feature only at trial. Commentary suggests that the term “trial” is intended to include evidentiary hearings on exceptions as well as summary matters. The comments further provide that a showing must be made to the court’s satisfaction of appropriate safeguards, such as (1) reliable transmission procedures and image quality, (2) an orderly process for reference to exhibits by the witness and all counsel or parties conducting the examination, and (3) an absence of any outside influence on the witness during testimony. Even if all the parties agree to the use of live televised testimony, the Article nevertheless requires a court order.

Pursuant to the Article, the court may order televised testimony when “compelling circumstances are shown.” These circumstances may exist where a witness has a pre-existing condition or is restricted from live attendance by their physician.  They may also exist for witnesses barred from work-related travel by their employer.

Although adopted in 2007, Article 1633.1 remains largely unused by both courts and litigants; it appears its time has come.

Throw Me Something Mister? Liability for Mardi Gras Krewes

As part of the unique aura that surrounds Mardi Gras in South Louisiana, the expression “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is forever linked to the spirit of the season. The Cajun French phrase meaning “Let the good times roll” captures the eccentric soul of Carnival. However, it might be difficult to let the good times roll after being struck by a bag of beads hurled from the second deck of float. If the spectator suffers a severe injury as a result, who is liable? Does the injured party have any recourse against the person who threw the beads? Against the Mardi Gras krewe organizers?

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal held that spectators assume the risk of injury when attending a parade. Citron v. Gentilly Carnival Club, Inc., 14-1096 (La. App. 4 Cir. 4/15/15), 165 So.3d 304. The foundation of the decision was based on the Mardi Gras Immunity Statute, La. R.S. 9:2796, which has two parts: (1) creates broad immunity for krewes which sponsor parades; and (2) states that anyone who attends such a parade “assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tosses or hurled by members,” which include, but are not limited to: beads, cups, doubloons, and many other things.

To impose liability on a krewe, there must be evidence of the krewe’s—as opposed to its member’s—gross negligence. Palmer v. Zulu Soc. Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc., 09–0751 (La. App. 4 Cir. 3/1/10), 63 So.3d 131 (emphasis added). Furthermore, a carnival krewe or organization may not be vicariously liable for its members’ acts. To the contrary, Louisiana jurisprudence has rejected the argument that a krewe is vicariously liable for its members’ acts. Kibble v. B.P.O. Elks Lodge No. 30, 640 So.2d 267, 269 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1993).

The Mardi Gras Immunity Statute imposes an extremely high burden of proving the “loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence” of the krewe or organization. Gross negligence has been defined as the “entire absence of care” and an “extreme departure from ordinary care or the want of even scant care.” Ambrose v. New Orleans Police Department Ambulance Service, 93–3099 (La. 7/5/94), 639 So.2d 216. In calculating whether an act was grossly negligent in the context of Mardi Gras Immunity Statute, the Citron court considered several factors: (1) the weight of the object thrown, (2) the distance the object was throw, and (3) the manner in which the object was thrown. Citron, 165 So.3d at 317.

Ultimately, the statute absolves krewes from liability for injuries caused by objects thrown to parade spectators, except in extreme and unusual circumstances. Therefore, be alert during parades this Mardi Gras season and Laissez les bons temps rouler.


Cole Frazier joined Keogh Cox as an associate in 2019 after working at the firm as a law clerk during law school. He earned his J.D. and Diploma in Comparative Law from Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center. During his time at LSU Law, he also studied comparative law at Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University in Lyon, France. Cole received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Pre-law from Nicholls State University in 2015. He was elected to the Southland Conference all-academic team twice as a member of the Nicholls State football program.