INSURANCE– In Byrnside v. Hutto, 2013 WL 692474, the Second Circuit affirmed a decision excluding insurance coverage for injuries sustained by the plaintiff in a bar fight. The Court held that, where the actions of the defendant were intentional and reasonably calculated to produce harm or injury, coverage for such injuries is excluded under the intentional acts exclusion contained in the policy. The Court indicated that the intentional acts exclusion would not have applied in the case of self-defense. However, the factual finding that the defendant ordered the persons holding the plaintiff to release him, only to then “immediately hit Byrnside in the face” offered ample factual support for the rejection of self-defense.

PRESCRIPTION– In Howard v. Mamou Health Resources, 2013 WL 811676, the Third Circuit affirmed an exception of prescription in favor of a “qualified health care provider” as defined in Louisiana Revised Statutes title 40, section 1299 et seq, where the plaintiff filed suit in district court against the health care provider within a year of the incident, but failed to file a claim with the Patient’s Compensation Fund within that time period. The Court found that the timely filing of suit against a qualified health care provider in the district court neither suspends nor interrupts the one-year prescriptive period for the filing of medical malpractice claims.

PUNITIVE DAMAGES– In Rachal v. Brouillette, 2013 WL 950355, the Third Circuit was presented with evidence that the defendant/tortfeasor was under the influence of hydrocodone and marijuana and that his impairment caused him to strike a mother and her two children walking near the roadway. The jury awarded substantial damages including $100,000 in punitive (exemplary) damages.

The Third Circuit cited to the principle that an award of punitive damages will not be disturbed on appeal absent a showing that the jury’s decision was manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong. Nevertheless, the Court held that the award of $100,000 was abusively low under the facts presented and increased the punitive award to $500,000. The defendants argued that no punitive damages were recoverable because the tortfeasor had only a “small amount” of drugs in his system and was not impaired. In rejecting this argument, the Court stated:

“This ‘small amount of drugs’ was apparently enough to cause Mr. Brouillette to drive erratically at a high speed, kill three people, and not remember any of it.”

In support of its decision, the Court cited to a wide range of facts including the fact that the tortfeasor’s prior conviction for driving while intoxicated had not served as a sufficient deterrent.