The Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled that a co-defendant who pleads comparative fault as an affirmative defense may appeal a summary judgment that dismisses a co-defendant, even when the plaintiff did not file an appeal. The Court’s decision in Amedee v. Aimbridge Hospitality resolved a circuit split among the Louisiana Courts of Appeal regarding this issue.
The Amedee plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against multiple defendants including the City of New Orleans and Premium Parking of South Texas, LLC. After discovery, the City of New Orleans filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal from the suit. The plaintiff did not oppose the city’s motion. Premium Parking was the only party to file an opposition. The trial court granted the city’s motion and dismissed it from the suit. Premium Parking appealed the court’s judgment.
The Fourth Circuit did not address the merits of Premium Parking’s appeal. Instead, the court dismissed the appeal because it found Premium Parking did not have a legal right to appeal the city’s dismissal when the plaintiff did not appeal the judgment.
The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the appellate court’s ruling. The Court noted that “to prohibit appellate review of a summary judgment by a co-defendant, even where a plaintiff did not appeal, diminishes the search for truth—the object of a lawsuit—and denies a defendant the ability to fully defend itself.” To reach this conclusion, the Court first asked, who may appeal a judgment?
To answer this question, the Court looked to La. C.C.P. art. 2082 and observed the article makes no restriction regarding what party may appeal a final judgment. Further, the Court noted that the right to an appeal is even extended third parties, not involved in the suit, when that third party is allegedly aggrieved by the judgment. See La. C.C.P. art. 2086.
The Court also considered a defendant’s right to appeal in the context of Louisiana’s pure comparative fault system and summary judgments. Under La. C.C. art. 2323, Louisiana’s comparative fault statute, the fault of all parties is to be quantified. La. C.C.P. art. 966(G), provides that when summary judgment is granted in favor of a party or non-party to a suit, the fault of the dismissed party may not be considered in any subsequent allocation of fault in the matter.
The Court noted that while art. 966(G) precludes an allocation of the fault of a party dismissed under the statute, it does not limit the right of a defendant to appeal the dismissal of a co-defendant. No statute limited a defendant’s right to appeal a summary judgment only to those situations where a plaintiff also filed an appeal. Therefore, a defendant who hopes to keep a co-defendant in the case so that fault still may be allocated to the dismissed party at trial now may appeal the co-defendant’s dismissal, even when the plaintiff fails to do so.
Case Reference: Amedee v. Aimbridge Hosp. LLC, 2021-01906 (La. 10/1/22), — So.3d —, 2022 WL 12338929.