A motion for summary judgment is a procedural device a party can use to avoid a full-scale trial when there is no genuine issue of material fact. La. C.C.P. art. 966 is the statute that governs motions for summary judgment in Louisiana. The statute was amended in 2015 to establish some new procedural rules for filing summary judgment motions. Before the statue was amended, the deadline for opposing a motion for summary judgment was set in the District Court Rules, and courts frequently allowed oppositions to motions for summary judgment to be filed after the statutory delay.
In 2015, the Legislature amended the statute to state that “absent the consent of the parties and the court, an opposition shall be filed” within the new fifteen-day deadline established by the article. In Auricchio v. Harriston, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the amendments to the statute removed the discretionary language that previously allowed a court to allow a party additional time to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court ruled the amendments to art. 966 made the opposition deadline mandatory, and late-filed oppositions should not be considered in connection with a ruling on a motion for summary judgment.
The Louisiana Supreme Court recently revisited this issue in Mahe v. LCMC Health Holdings LLC. The Court considered whether a trial court may grant a continuance of a hearing on a motion for summary judgment when a party fails to file its opposition within the fifteen-day deadline set in La. C.C.P. art. 966(B)(2).
In Mahe, a party requested a continuance of the hearing after the fifteen-day deadline passed. While subsection 966(C)(2) provides that a continuance of the hearing is permitted “for good cause shown,” the Court held that the requested continuance could not serve to circumvent the mandatory deadline for filing an opposition, as described in the Auricchio case. Accordingly, the order granting the continuance was reversed, and the trial court was instructed to rule on the motion for summary judgment without consideration of the untimely filed opposition. In so holding, the Court reinforced the mandatory deadlines set in La. C.C.P. art. 966 and provided additional guidance on the procedural rules for filing and opposing motions for summary judgment.