As part of the unique aura that surrounds Mardi Gras in South Louisiana, the expression “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is forever linked to the spirit of the season. The Cajun French phrase meaning “Let the good times roll” captures the eccentric soul of Carnival. However, it might be difficult to let the good times roll after being struck by a bag of beads hurled from the second deck of float. If the spectator suffers a severe injury as a result, who is liable? Does the injured party have any recourse against the person who threw the beads? Against the Mardi Gras krewe organizers?
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal held that spectators assume the risk of injury when attending a parade. Citron v. Gentilly Carnival Club, Inc., 14-1096 (La. App. 4 Cir. 4/15/15), 165 So.3d 304. The foundation of the decision was based on the Mardi Gras Immunity Statute, La. R.S. 9:2796, which has two parts: (1) creates broad immunity for krewes which sponsor parades; and (2) states that anyone who attends such a parade “assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tosses or hurled by members,” which include, but are not limited to: beads, cups, doubloons, and many other things.
To impose liability on a krewe, there must be evidence of the krewe’s—as opposed to its member’s—gross negligence. Palmer v. Zulu Soc. Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc., 09–0751 (La. App. 4 Cir. 3/1/10), 63 So.3d 131 (emphasis added). Furthermore, a carnival krewe or organization may not be vicariously liable for its members’ acts. To the contrary, Louisiana jurisprudence has rejected the argument that a krewe is vicariously liable for its members’ acts. Kibble v. B.P.O. Elks Lodge No. 30, 640 So.2d 267, 269 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1993).
The Mardi Gras Immunity Statute imposes an extremely high burden of proving the “loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence” of the krewe or organization. Gross negligence has been defined as the “entire absence of care” and an “extreme departure from ordinary care or the want of even scant care.” Ambrose v. New Orleans Police Department Ambulance Service, 93–3099 (La. 7/5/94), 639 So.2d 216. In calculating whether an act was grossly negligent in the context of Mardi Gras Immunity Statute, the Citron court considered several factors: (1) the weight of the object thrown, (2) the distance the object was throw, and (3) the manner in which the object was thrown. Citron, 165 So.3d at 317.
Ultimately, the statute absolves krewes from liability for injuries caused by objects thrown to parade spectators, except in extreme and unusual circumstances. Therefore, be alert during parades this Mardi Gras season and Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Cole Frazier joined Keogh Cox as an associate in 2019 after working at the firm as a law clerk during law school. He earned his J.D. and Diploma in Comparative Law from Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center. During his time at LSU Law, he also studied comparative law at Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University in Lyon, France. Cole received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Pre-law from Nicholls State University in 2015. He was elected to the Southland Conference all-academic team twice as a member of the Nicholls State football program.