Category: Contracts

Bad Faith Action Brought Against an Insurer Less than Ten Years after the Date of Loss Dismissed As Prescribed

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled a plaintiff’s bad faith insurance claim was prescribed where the policy at issue required actions to be brought within two years after the date of loss.

In Phyllis Wilson v. Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the plaintiff asserted a bad faith claim against an insurer. The applicable policy of insurance provided “[n]o action can be brought unless the policy provisions have been complied with and the action is started within two years after the date of loss.” The plaintiff alleged that the insurer failed to timely tender payments for losses that occurred on August 27, 2020 and October 20, 2020. However, the plaintiff did not file her suit unit January 9, 2023.

Prior to the Wilson decision, courts frequently relied on the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision in Smith v. Citadel Ins. Co., which held that actions against insurers under Louisiana’s bad faith statutes are subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. In Smith, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether a bad faith action against an insurer was a delictual or tort action subject to a one-year prescriptive period, or a contractual action, which is subject to a ten-year prescriptive period under Louisiana law. The Smith court concluded that the duty of good faith owed by the insurer to the insured “emanates from the contract between the parties” such that the “insured’s cause of action is personal and subject to a ten-year prescriptive period.”

In Wilson, the Louisiana Supreme Court examined whether Smith required the Court to uphold a ten-year prescriptive period for bad faith actions even though the insurance policy at issue prohibited actions brought more than two years after the date of loss. The Wilson court ultimately concluded that an action against an insurer brought more than two years after the date of loss is prescribed where the applicable insurance policy set a term of two years for filing a claim against the insurer.

To reach this conclusion, the Wilson court cited Taranto v. Louisiana citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., which held “in the absence a statutory prohibition, a clause in an insurance policy fixing a reasonable time to institute suit is valid.” The Wilson court then turned to the applicable statute and noted that La. R.S. 22:868(B) “expressly provides that no policy ‘shall contain any condition, stipulation, or agreement limiting right of action against the insurer to a period of less than twenty-four months next after the inception of the loss when the claim is a first-party claim…’” The Wilson court noted the two-year limitation in the applicable policy was consistent with La. R.S. 22:868(B).

The court’s ruling supports the argument that policy provisions requiring actions to be filed within two years of the date of loss are enforceable. However, the Court did not disturb its holding in Smith, noting the Smith case was factually distinguishable because it did not involve a policy that contained a contractual limitation on the insured’s institution of suits. 


Phyllis Wilson v. Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, No. 2023-CC-01320 (La. 1/10/2024) (per curiam), 2024 WL 108714.

Smith v. Citadel Ins. Co., 2019-00052 (La. 10/22/19), 285 So.3d 1062.

Taranto v. Louisiana citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., 2010-0105 (La. 3/15/11), 62 So.3d 721, 728.

Court Examines Whether AI Images May Receive Copyright Protection

Under the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright protection “subsists in any original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now know or later developed, from which they can be perceived or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”^ The Act goes on to state that works that may receive copyright protection are not limited to script or printed material but may include “any physical rendering of the fruits of creative intellectual or aesthetic labor.”^

Throughout its history, and despite the Act’s somewhat archaic language, copyright law has proven to be adaptable enough to cover all manner of works created with new and emerging technologies. However, the traditional understanding of copyright law is being challenged by the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and its ability to produce new creations.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia. recently ruled that works created autonomously by AI are not susceptible of copyright protection. In Thaler v. Perlmutter, Stephen Thaler appealed an administrative decision by the United States Copyright office denying his application to register the copyright for an image generated by an AI program he developed. The court’s decision examined the meaning of what it means to be an “author,” as defined by the Copyright Act and held that only works of human authorship are susceptible of copyright protection under U.S. law.*

The court compared the issue to a case from 1884 that examined whether copyright protection could extend to the then-cutting edge field of photography. In Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, it was argued that a photograph should not qualify as a protected work because it was created by a camera. The US Supreme Court disagreed and held that while a camera may generate a “mechanical reproduction” of a scene, it does so only after the photographer develops a “mental conception” of the photograph^^. The court reasoned that the technology used to create the work was immaterial so long as there was human involvement in and creative control over the work.

In a later case, the US Ninth Circuit examined a case in which a crested macaque monkey took a photograph of himself, and various parties attempted to file suit on the monkey’s behalf to confirm copyright protection for the monkey’s photograph.** While the case was decided on standing grounds, the court considered whom the Copyright Act was designed to protect and concluded that the act was designed solely to protect humans.

The Thaler court identified no authority supporting copyright protection in any work originating from a non-human.* However, the issue presented in Thaler was limited to copyright protections for a work created solely by an AI, absent any human input. Therefore, it remains to be seen how courts will address issues related to copyright protection for images that blend human and AI origins.

We stand in a new frontier in both technology and copyright law. As artists and developers increasingly use AI as a tool, the increased distance between human creativity and the final product will present challenging questions regarding how much human input is necessary to afford these creations protection under copyright law.*


^17 U.S.C § 102(a)

* Thaler v. Perlmutter, No. 22-CV-01564-BAH, R. Doc. 24 (Filed 08/18/23).

^^ Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 59 (1884).

** Naruto v. Slater, 888 F.3d 418 (9th Cir. 2018).

Federal Jury Finds For Employer in ADA Case

In a case handled by our firm, a Lafayette-based global catering and life support client was sued by an employee based in Dubai for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The jury unanimously found that the employer (1) did not discriminate against the plaintiff because of a disability or (2) retaliate against him because he raised a complaint regarding the alleged discrimination.

The plaintiff had a written contract of employment with a one-year term that automatically renewed if he was not terminated. Upon the contract expiration date, the employer advised plaintiff that the contract would not be renewed for a successive term.

Plaintiff, an Army veteran, suffered from PTSD following his military service and deployment in Iraq.  He claimed defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his PTSD, which he claimed as a mental health disability. Plaintiff further claimed that defendant retaliated against him after he complained to his direct supervisor and the head of human resources about the alleged discrimination. To support his case, plaintiff claimed he was not disciplined before his termination and did not receive negative performance reviews during employment. Significant pre-trial motion practice occurred and framed the issues for trial in two ways.

First, the defense learned of actions taken by plaintiff following the termination of his employment that would have provided a legitimate basis for termination had the actions been discovered before he was terminated. The defense argued that evidence of such “after-acquired” misconduct was relevant to credibility and independently relevant to calculate backpay that plaintiff sought, citing McKennon v. Nashville Banner Pub. Co. and McClung v. Hajek. Over defendant’s objection, the Trial Court excluded the evidence as highly prejudicial, instead finding that back pay was an equitable remedy to be decided by the Court in a subsequent evidentiary hearing related to the issue of back pay.

Second, the defense argued that non-certified medical record evidence submitted by plaintiff was hearsay and thus inadmissible to prove a disability. The Court agreed with the defendant and issued a limiting instruction that the jury was not to consider uncertified medical records for the truth of the matter asserted.

At trial, our client presented ample evidence of plaintiff’s performance deficiencies with respect to the vetting of vendors, which jeopardized the employer’s government contracts and the jobs of other employees. The majority of plaintiff’s performance issues arose in Dubai, plaintiff’s key area of oversight. Therefore, it was unbelievable that he would not know of, or take responsibility for, those performance deficiencies. In addition, the language of the written employment contract allowed for non-renewal of the contract. In a unanimous verdict as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 48, the jury ultimately found that although the plaintiff proved he suffered a disability, he failed to prove discrimination or retaliation under the Act. 


Staples v. Taylor International Services, Inc., et al., 6:20-cv-00192-RRS-CBW.

McKennon v. Nashville Banner Pub. Co., 513 U.S. 352, 361–62, 115 S. Ct. 879, 886, 130 L. Ed. 2d 852 (1995).

McClung v. Hajek, 79 F.3d 1145 (5th Cir. 1996).

Court Examines Requirements of Financing Provision in Purchase Agreement for  Residential Property

Purchase agreements for residential property routinely include financing provisions that require the buyer to show that he has applied for a loan. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently analyzed such a provision in Abdelqader v. Ramos. The plaintiff in Abdelqader entered into a purchase agreement with the defendant for an unimproved lot on which the plaintiff planned to build his home.

The financing provision in the purchase agreement required the buyer to provide the seller with (1) written documentation; (2) from a lender; (3) that a loan application has been made; and (4) that Buyer authorized lender to proceed with the loan approval process. The provision also required that this documentation be provided to the seller “within 3 calendar days after” the date of Agreement.

After the parties executed the purchase agreement, various disputes led the seller to terminate the agreement and re-list the property for sale. The plaintiff sued for stipulated damages and attorney’s fees, which were allowed under the contract if either party breached the purchase agreement.

The buyer introduced evidence that his agent sent the seller’s broker a USDA pre-approval letter and certificate of eligibility for financing under a USDA Rural Development Program. These documents were sent to the seller’s agent before the parties executed the purchasing agreement. Generally, such pre-approval letters show the buyer appears qualified for a loan in the amount of the purchase. They do not confirm a loan was applied for or approved by the lender for the property to be purchased.

The seller argued that the pre-approval letter furnished by the buyer before the parties entered into the purchase agreement was not an actual loan application and did not verify that a loan application for the purchase had been made. The seller also argued that the buyer did not comply with the terms of the financing provision because he did not provide the subject documents within the three-day window after the purchase agreement was signed. The court rejected these arguments. The Court found the agreement did not require the buyer to produce his loan application to the seller or that the loan application be dated within three days of the Agreement. The buyer’s lender produced the pre-approval letter and the certificate of eligibility in response to the buyer’s application for financing and pursuant to the buyer’s instruction to proceed with the loan process. Though its ruling may be limited to the facts of this case, the Court found that the buyer complied with the terms of the financing agreement.

It appears the court viewed the seller’s claim that the seller did not comply with the financing provision of the purchasing agreement as after the fact justification for the seller unilaterally terminating the purchase agreement for some unrelated dispute. The Court found that the seller breached the purchase agreement and awarded the buyer stipulated damages of 10% of the contract price and attorney’s fees. This ruling also serves as a reminder that purchase agreements for residential properties are contracts, and breaches of these contracts can have consequences if terminated on a whim.


Abdelqader v. Ramos, 2022-0305 (La. App. 4 Cir. 11/30/22), 353 So.3d 750.

Court Awards Realtor Commission and Attorney’s Fees Despite Breach of Purchase Agreement

The owner of a strip mall retained a realtor to list available property in its shopping center. A purchase agreement was secured and set a deadline to complete the sale. When the purchaser did not complete the sale, the realtor sued the purchaser for lost commission. See Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, LLC v. Pennywise Solutions, Inc., 2019-0114 (La. App. 1 Cir. 10/23/19), 289 So. 3d 600.  The case raised the issue of whether the realtor was a third-party beneficiary to the purchase agreement.

After the sale fell through, the realtor filed suit against the purchaser to recover commission for the sale of the property, attorney’s fees, and other costs. In response, the purchaser admitted to the breach of the purchase agreement but argued that the listing agent had no right to recover because it was not a party to the purchase agreement. The trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment in the realtor’s favor. The trial court held that the purchase agreement established a “stipulation pour autrui”(third-party benefit) for the realtor.

The court acknowledged that agents generally are not parties to purchase agreements. However, the language of the specific purchase agreement conferred a benefit in favor of both agents because it explicitly stated that a party defaulting on the purchase agreement “shall be liable” for realtor’s commissions, attorney’s fees, and costs incurred in the enforcement of the contract.

The court also rejected the purchaser’s second argument that it had to be “placed in default” before any cause of action could arise. In response, court found that, when a term for performance is fixed in a contract, the arrival of that term automatically puts the breaching party in default.

The result in Beau Box may be limited to its own facts. However, realtors and parties should now pay closer attention to the terms of purchase agreement, which can create benefits for non-parties to the contract.

Marty Golden has been practicing law based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for over thirty years, concentrating in civil litigation primarily involving injuries, property damage, insurance coverage, and contract disputes. Much of his practice is defending and advising real estate agents in suits by property buyers and sellers, but Marty also defends other professionals, insurance companies, manufacturers, and business owners. Marty has a special interest in all things procedural, because they are the rules of the road for litigators and knowing them better than his opponent gives him a leg up in court.

Supreme Court Rules Against Broad Application of Indemnity Provision in Engineer’s Contract

The Supreme Court ruling in Couvillion Group, LLC v. Plaquemines Parish Government, 2020 -00074 (La. 4/27/20) is a reminder that an indemnity claim must be sufficiently related to the principal demand and that contract indemnity provisions are to be strictly construed.

In Couvillion, the general contractor sued the owner of a public works port project for contract delay damages resulting from a cease work order issued to allow redesign of a fuel tank platform. When the contractor submitted its delay claim, the owner requested that its project engineer review it and make recommendations. The engineer recommended payment of a little over $1 million dollars. When the owner refused to pay, the contractor sued. In response, the owner filed a third-party demand against the engineer alleging that its recommendation was erroneous and excessive and that, if it was bound by the engineer’s recommendation, then the engineer must indemnify the owner.

On behalf of the engineer, Keogh Cox attorneys argued that the engineer should not be required to reimburse the owner for any delay costs and asked for dismissal through an exception of no cause of action. Code of Procedure Article 1111 provides that a defendant in a principal action may bring in any person who may be liable to him for all or part of the principal demand. Here, that was not the situation. The engineer was not liable to the owner for any part of the contractor’s delay claim because the engineer did not cause the delay. The delay damages were incurred before the engineer made a recommendation for payment. The events giving rise to the two claims were separate and distinct: the main demand arose from the project delay and the third- party demand arose from the engineer’s recommendation of the claim amount. The Court commented that the principal claim against the owner for delay damages was too attenuated from the owner’s claim against the engineer, thus the third-party demand was improper.

The owner also relied on the indemnity provision in the engineer’s contract that required the engineer to indemnify the owner against any and all claims for personal injury or “damages to property” that may arise from its services. The Court held that the plain meaning of the term did not include the economic-only losses related to the subject delay claim. The Court further reasoned that indemnity agreements are to be strictly construed, rejecting the owner’s broader interpretation.

La. Supreme Court Rules 10-year Contract Prescription Applies to 1st Party Claims Against Insurer

In a first-party action obtained by assignment for excess liability against an insurer, the Louisiana Supreme Court in Smith v. Citadel Insurance,19-00052 (La. 10/22/19) ruled that the claim against the carrier is subject to the 10-year contract prescription period under La. law, stating:

“For the above reasons, we hold an insurer’s duty of good faith owed to its insured under La. R.S. 22:1973 does not exist separate and apart from an insurer’s contractual obligations. The duty of good faith is codified in La. R.S. 22:1973, but this duty is an outgrowth of the contractual and fiduciary relationship between the insured and the insurer, and the duty of good faith and fair dealing emanates from the contract between the parties. Thus, first-party bad faith claims against an insurer are governed by the ten-year prescriptive period set forth in La. C.C. art. 3499. Consequently, Ms. Smith’s first-party bad faith claim against GoAuto, brought pursuant to an assignment of rights from the insured, was subject to a 10-year prescriptive period and is not prescribed.”

The concurring justice noted that it was not necessary to engage in the protracted discussion concerning the duties of insurers relative to first-party claims. Nevertheless, the court offered an in-depth discussion of these duties.

Construction Law: The Limits of Anti-Indemnity in Louisiana

Louisiana’s anti-indemnity statute applicable to construction contracts, R.S. 9:2780.1, became law in 2011. The statute renders unenforceable any provision in, or collateral to, a construction contract that purports to indemnify or hold harmless a person from liability for its own negligence, or has the effect of doing so. Since the law’s passage, few court decisions have interpreted its seemingly broad language and many questions remain as to the law’s full impact.

The obvious intent of the anti-indemnity law is to avoid shifting liability away from a party at fault to another person. To this end, the language in the statute nullifies any agreement that has “the effect of holding the person at fault harmless.” But what about “limit of liability” provisions? Arguably, such provisions have the effect of holding harmless the party at fault. Does a limit of liability provision, otherwise valid and enforceable under Louisiana law, run afoul of the anti-indemnity statute? After all, those parties with superior bargaining power in construction contracts will seek to insulate themselves from liability to the fullest extent allowed by law, and will look for alternatives to the indemnity provisions that now expressly violate public policy.

One court recently held that R.S. 9:2780.1 does not prohibit a limit of liability provision in a construction contract. In Patriot Contracting, LLC v. Star Insurance Company, (E.D. La. 3/01/2018), the construction contract contained a provision that excluded liability of the architect for good faith decisions made during contract administration. The plaintiff/contractor alleged that the architect was negligent in its contract administration duties and caused it to suffer economic loss. The court dismissed the claim, rejecting the contractor’s argument that the provision violated the anti-indemnity law.

The Patriot court explained that the statute prohibits an indemnity agreement, i.e., where one party agrees to reimburse a second party for damages for which the second party becomes liable to a third party. However, the anti-indemnity law did not impact the provision that excluded the contractor’s right to recover from the architect. Thus, at at least according to one court, parties in construction contracts are still free to include limit of liability provisions.


Mary Anne Wolf is an engineer/attorney with a construction background who represents design professionals, contractors, and others in construction litigation. She also gives seminars on the subject. She enjoys travel, yoga, and encouraging her husband in his gardening and cooking endeavors.

Did You Just Create a Contract?

You tell a contractor you want him to repair a problem. Before leaving your house, the contractor says he will “look into it” and “get back to you.” Have you just made an oral contract for the repair? The answer to this question is no, according to Hodson v. Daron Cavaness Builder, Inc., 2017-1235 (La. App. 1 Cir. 2/27/18), a recent First Circuit Decision.

In Louisiana, an oral contract for over $500 must be proved by at least one witness and other corroborating circumstances. See La. C.C. art. 1846. The person trying to enforce the oral contract may serve as her own witness to meet this standard, but evidence of the corroborating circumstances must come from some other source. In Hodson, the plaintiff observed cracks in her floor and called a contractor to examine the problem. The plaintiff made it clear she wanted the contractor to repair the floor. While the contractor denied promising to fix the floor, he admitted that he promised to “look into it and get back with her in a week or two.” Despite his promise, he never called the homeowner back.

The plaintiff filed suit and claimed she was entitled to recover damages for the cost of repairing her floor. The Trial Court found the contractor’s admissions to be enough “corroborating evidence” to establish an oral contract for the repair. However, the First Circuit found the parties did not make an oral contract to repair the floor. Instead, the contractor only agreed to “look into it.” According to the Hodson Court, a “broken promise to look into a situation does not equate to an oral agreement to repair.”

The Hodson decision shows that while Louisiana law allows parties to create oral contracts, it can be difficult to prove that a contract was actually formed or to define the details of the agreement. If you put the agreement in writing, you won’t be left wondering whether you just created a contract.


Reynolds LeBlanc is a partner at Keogh Cox. His practice areas include commercial litigation, personal injury claims, appeals, and other matters. Reynolds is a former teacher, who in his free time plays music and perpetually talks himself into training for his next marathon.

RENTER BEWARE: Hidden Risks in Lease Agreements

With home prices soaring in today’s housing market, many people choose to rent rather than buy. Factored into their decision is the style, the square footage, the location, and other criteria, but few renters consider one risk that comes with many, if not most, leases. Many renters are exposed to personal liability for accidents occurring on the premises, and they don’t even know it.

A lease is executed between the renter/tenant (the “lessee”) and the property owner (the “lessor”). By law, the lease imposes general obligations on both parties.

The lessee (renter) is bound:

1. to pay the rent in accordance with the agreed terms;

2. to use the thing as a prudent administrator and in accordance with the purpose of which it was leased; and,

3. to return the thing at the end of the lease in a condition that is the same as it was when the thing was delivered to him, except for normal wear and tear. LSA C.C. Art. 2683

The lessor (property owner) is bound:

1. to deliver the thing to the lessee;

2. to maintain the thing in a condition suitable for the purpose of which is was leased; and,

3. to protect the lessee’s peaceful possession for the duration of the lease.” LSA C.C. Art. 2682.

These general obligations are typically expanded by terms in the lease because the lessee and lessor are “free to contract for any object that is lawful, possible and determined or determinable.” Family Care Services, Inc. v. Owens, 46 So.3d 234 (La. App. 2 Cir. 8/11/10). This “freedom of contract” allows the parties to construct their own bargains, shifting certain rights and obligations. In many commercial and residential lease agreements, this shifting includes a transfer of the liability for vices or defects on or in the leased premises.

Although the lessor warrants that the leased premises is free of vices or defects, Louisiana law allows the lessee to assume responsibility for the condition of the leased premises under LA. R.S. 9:3221. Often, lessees assume that the lessor, as the owner of the premises, will be responsible if there is an accident. However, cases such as Jamison v. D’Amico, 955 So.2d 161 (La. App. 4th Cir. 3/14/07) demonstrate that the owner may be entirely free of fault even though they owned a defective premises which caused an accident. In Jamison, a worker was injured when a floor collapsed beneath her. There was insufficient evidence that the owner was aware of the defective floor. Because the lease contained a clause shifting responsibility, the owner was under no duty to inspect the premises and was dismissed from the case.

A lesson to all renters: read and understand the provisions in your lease. Even if you like the colors and the location, you should also like the lease contract before you sign it.

Risky Business : “Foreseeable” Damages in Commercial Transactions

Intuitively, contracting parties in commercial transactions understand that legal consequences follow a breach of contract: If a party fails to deliver a product as promised, the breaching party can be liable for the cost to correct the breach; but what is that cost?

Say, for example, a business cancels an order to provide parts to a long-time customer because the relationship has gone sour. Legally, the liability for that breach of contract may extend beyond the cost of the order. A breaching party is liable for damages that are a direct consequence of the failure to perform and that were foreseeable at the time the contract was made, which may include lost profit. If the breach was intentional or malicious, the party’s liability may extend even to direct damages that were not foreseeable.

The business that cancelled the order now faces a jury’s decision to identify the direct and foreseeable losses, a decision that, by its nature, is vague. However, the law imposes a limit on the jury’s prerogative to decide the damages. Even for a bad faith breach of contract, liability arises only for the direct, immediate consequences of the breach and there should be no liability for damages determined to be remote, indirect, or that have no necessary relation to the breach.

In a recent case, a jury found that a defendant boat engine manufacturer breached its contract with plaintiff boat manufacturer by cancelling a purchase order for engines, and further, that the engine manufacturer was in bad faith. The jury awarded $1.8 million in foreseeable lost revenues and $1.3 million in unforeseeable lost profits. The trial court threw out the “unforeseen” portion of the award because it was not a direct damage, and emphasized that a breaching party does not “become the insurer for all misfortunes that may arise from the breach.”

The boat manufacturer had argued that the cash flow expected from the sale of the boats rendered engine-less by the breach would have been invested in more personnel and capital to grow its northwest division. But, because of depleted cash flow from lost sales, that opportunity was lost. The court found, as a matter of law, that this loss was not a direct consequence of the breach, and thus, regardless of the bad faith, was not a recoverable contract damage. Simply, loss of cash flow in one part of the business that had a ripple effect in a separate division was too indirect to be a recoverable damage. See  Marine Power Holding, LLC v. Malibu Boats, LLC, 2016 WL 7241560 (E.D. La. 12/15/2016).

By contrast, courts have found that loss of cash flow is recoverable where directly related to the damages suffered, such as where breach of a contract to deliver chickens to a chicken farmer caused the forced sale of the chicken farm. See Volentine v. Raeford Farms of La.,  50-698 (La.App. 2 Cir. 8/15/16), 201 So.3d 325.

Failure to perform on a contract exposes a business to more than it may realize. Understanding this risk allows for smarter decisions before the breach.

Going Once, Going Twice … A New Alternative to Design-Bid-Build Contracts

The 2014 Legislative Session brought new possibilities for large construction projects under the Public Contract Law. Generally, a public entity is required to separately hire a design professional to design the project, and let the project out for public bid for the construction work. “Design-build” contracts, in which the public owner contracts with one entity for the design and construction of the facility, are prohibited under Public Contract Law.  However, the Legislature has now given public entities another option under the Public Bid Law: Construction Management at Risk Delivery Method (CMAR).