Do Not Pass Go

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently considered the recoverability of indirect economic damages caused by negligent injury to property of others in MAW Enterprises, LLC, et al v. City of Marksville, et al. The Court found the defendant’s duty did not include liability for damages resulting from negligent interference of a contract, and dismissed the case.

MAW involved the City of Marksville’s denial of a liquor permit to the plaintiff’s lessee. The rent was dependent in part upon the amount of gasoline sales.The plaintiff alleged that the City’s improper denial of the liquor permit resulted in lower gasoline sales. Under these facts, the Court held that the plaintiff had no cause of action against the City because the damages claimed were not within the “scope of the duty.”

The MAW Court extensively discussed its earlier decision in PPG Industries, Inc. v. Bean Dredging, 447 So.2d 1058 (La. 1984). Citing to the analysis in PPG, the Court reasoned that holding a tortfeasor responsible for indirect economic damages caused by injury to property of others could improperly create liability in an indeterminate amount for an indeterminate time to an indeterminate class.

The Court held that general tort duties duty did not encompass the plaintiff’s injury. Additionally, after a lengthy analysis, the Court held that the duties under La. R.S. 26:71 et seq. (involving the issuance of liquor licenses) likewise did not encompass the plaintiff’s damages because these duties were owed only to the person whose liquor license was denied or granted, namely the lessee.

One dissenting Justice found the majority’s reliance on PPG improper because, unlike PPG, the plaintiff’s damages were not caused by a “negligent injury to property resulting in physical damages.” The majority’s citation to PPG appears to indicate that PPG’s reasoning may be applicable to cases involving both physical and non-physical damages.

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