JUNE 2015 LAW UPDATE
Case summaries courtesy of Frank Maraist, La. Civil Law and Procedure Newsletter, May 28, 2015 edition
ANSWER; MOTION TO STRIKE ANSWER
The plaintiff filed suit and served the defendant; after service, the plaintiff moved for and obtained a preliminary default. Thereafter, a letter from the defendant denying the claims was filed into the record as an “Answer to Original Petition.” The plaintiff filed a motion to strike the answer and a motion for final default judgment; the court granted both motions. Held, the trial court’s failure to conduct a contradictory hearing on the plaintiff’s motion to strike defendant’s answer from the record was error requiring reversal under La. C.C.P. art. 964. Citadel Builders v Dirt Worx of Louisiana, L.L.C., Supreme Court, No. 2014-C-2700 (5/1/15) (Crichton, J, concurring; Knoll, J, dissenting).
A contempt proceeding is civil in nature when its purpose is to force compliance with a court order. The district court did not abuse its discretion in holding a party in contempt where the party purposefully substituted one exhibit for another, in violation of a court order. Paradise Rod and Gun Club, Inc. v Roy O. Martin Lumber Co., Inc., Third Circuit, No. CA 14-1184 (4/1/15).
DAMAGES; MEDICAL EXPENSES; MEDICAID
Under the plain wording of La. R.S. 46:446, any person filing a suit for recovery of damages as a result of injury, illness, or death for which assistance payments have been paid in whole or part by the Department of Health and Human Hospitals, must formally serve a copy of the petition on the DHH and must give written notice of any proposed settlement at least 30 days before the settlement is effected. There is no provision placing any responsibility on the DHH to give or prove notice of the receipt of medical assistance payments paid by it. Paulsell v State of Louisiana, First Circuit, No. 2014 CA 0567 (4/24/15).
In answering two certified questions from the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Louisiana Supreme Court holds that: (1) a firm settlement offer is unnecessary for an insured to sustain a cause of action against an insurer for a bad-faith failure-to-settle claim, because the insurer’s duties to the insured can be triggered by information other than the mere fact that a third party has made a settlement offer, and (2) an insurer can be found liable under La. R.S. 22:1973(B)(1) for misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts that are not related to the insurance policy’s coverage because the statute prohibits the misrepresentation of “pertinent facts” without restriction to facts “relating to any coverage.” Kelly v State Farm Fire & Casualty Ins. Co., No. 2014-CQ-1921 (5/5/15).