Can a nonresident corporation, who is not a party to a pending action, be compelled to respond to discovery in Louisiana? The Louisiana Fifth Circuit says YES. See Molaison v Cust-O-Fab Specialty Services, LLC, a case where Keogh Cox successfully handled the appeal.
The Molaison case involved an industrial accident claim where catastrophic injuries were alleged. In this context, the appellate court found that a non-resident company has sufficient presence in Louisiana to subject it to the court’s subpoena power. However, the trial court must first assess the scope of discovery to ensure it is calculated to lead to discoverable evidence and is not too onerous.
In Molaison, the owner of an industrial plant who employed the plaintiff claimed that its nonresident status prevented the parties from requiring it to respond to discovery by deposition or otherwise. The plant owner cited a Louisiana Supreme Court case that held personal jurisdiction, without more, did not subject a nonparty, out-of-state defendant to submit to discovery in this state.
But, in this case, the nonparty maintained a facility in Louisiana and employed the plaintiff. As a consequence, the Molaison court found that the Louisiana “discovery rules control” and “the trial court did not err in finding that (the company) was subject to the subpoena power of a Louisiana court.”
The contractor established it issued the subpoena to obtain evidence from the chemical plant owner that was relevant to the allocation of fault under Louisiana’s pure comparative fault tort system. Therefore, the appeal court reasoned that the nonresident plant owner was subject to the subpoena, “even if (the company) is not obligated to pay in tort by operation of workers compensation immunity.”
Of note, the court also held that the review of a discovery order that finds a nonresident company subject to the subpoena power is a final appealable judgment, as opposed to an interlocutory order subject the discretionary review on supervisory writ.
Case Reference: Molaison v Cust-O-Fab Specialty Services, LLC, 21-585 (La. App 5 Cir. 6/1/22); 343 So. 3d 866.