MERCHANT LIABILITY– In Orr v. Academy Louisiana Co., LLC, 2012-1411 (La. App. 3 Cir. 5/1/13), – So.3d-, the Third Circuit held that La. R.S. 9:2800.6 (the “merchant liability statute”) is “not all inclusive with relation to merchant negligence liability.” The defendants argued that the lower court erred when it did not examine the facts of the case under the terms of the merchant liability statute, and instead awarded the plaintiff damages based upon general negligence principles. The Court highlighted that a merchant has a general duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its patrons. Therefore, under Orr, a case can be decided after conducting a duty-risk analysis without mention of La. R.S. 9:2800.6, at least when the case does not involve keeping “aisles, passageways and floors in a reasonably safe condition.”
Nevertheless, the Court reversed the trial court’s decision and granted summary judgment for the defendant merchant. In Orr, the plaintiff/shopper was injured when another customer took a bicycle test ride in the store. The Court held that it was not foreseeable that a customer would ride a bicycle from the bike display to the other side of the store where the plaintiff was injured. As such, the defendant/merchant was not negligent.
INSURANCE– In Wiley v. Cornerstone National Insurance Company, 2012-0909 (La. App. 1 Cir. 4/25/13), the First Circuit examined an insurer’s obligation to inform its insured of a cancellation of its policy under LSA-R.s. 22:166. Cornerstone argued that its policy had been cancelled for non-payment of premium prior to the underlying incident. Cornerstone contended that the “anticipatory” “Notice of Cancellation” included in its billing invoices was sufficient to provide its insured notice of cancellation as required by statute. The Court disagreed.
The notice statute was enacted to protect the insured and the public from unnoticed termination of insurance coverage. To meet this end, it requires “an unconditional, unequivocal notice of cancellation.” Notices of cancellation for nonpayment sent with every premium invoice, when there is not yet a basis for cancellation, do not satisfy the terms of the statute. When Cornerstone sent the “notice of cancellation,” it was sending a bill for payment, not initiating cancellation of the policy. As such, the policy at issue had not been validly cancelled.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT PROCEDURE– In Christakis v. Clipper Const., LLC, 2012-1638 (La. App. 1 Cir. 4/26/13), – So. 3d -, the First Circuit upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment because the plaintiff could not establish that the defendant knew or should have known that a floor mat created anunreasonably dangerous condition. The plaintiff’s affidavit included only conclusory allegations of fact and did not show that the plaintiff could carry his burden of proof at trial.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that summary judgment was premature because discovery was not complete. The Court noted that, while parties must have a fair opportunity to conduct discovery, “there is no absolute right to delay action on a motion for summary judgment until discovery is complete.” Suit was filed over three years prior to the hearing on the motion for summary judgment.