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Finch v. HRI Lodging, Inc.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 19, 2014

JUNE FINCH, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
HRI LODGING, INC., Defendant-Appellee

Appealed fro the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 567,112. Honorable Scott J. Crichton, Judge.

JUNE FINCH, Appellant, Pro se.

PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD, and CROMWELL, LLP, By: Joseph S. Woodley, Counsel for Appellee.

Before BROWN, LOLLEY, and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1040

[49,497 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] BROWN, CHIEF JUDGE.

June and Sudhir Finch were guests at the Hilton Hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana. In the early morning hours of March 23, 2012, Sudhir Finch was arrested at the hotel for domestic abuse. June Finch, acting in proper person, filed this action against defendant, HRI Lodging, Inc., alleging that the hotel failed to exercise reasonable care in protecting her from harm. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant and plaintiff appealed. The issues presented are whether the trial court erred in striking plaintiff's late-filed opposition memo and affidavit and in granting defendant's

Page 1041

motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural Background

The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff, June Finch, and her then-husband, Sudhir Finch, were registered guests at the Hilton Hotel located at 104 Market Street in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 22-23, 2012.[1] In the early hours of March 23, a guest in a room adjoining the one occupied by the Finches called the front desk with a noise complaint. John Thomas, a security officer employed by the hotel, went to the Finches' room. Thomas first spoke with Mr. Finch, who came to the door and identified himself. When Thomas explained to Mr. Finch the reason for his visit, Mr. Finch apologized. Thomas then spoke with Mrs. Finch. According to the security officer, Mrs. Finch had a mark on the side of her nose, and when he asked her about it, she told him that she had injured herself earlier at a local nightclub. According to Mrs. Finch she had blood [49,497 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] on the side of her face and matted in her hair. Thomas asked Mrs. Finch if she wanted medical attention; she declined. He also asked her if she wanted him to call the police; she declined that offer as well. Before leaving the couple, Thomas told them that he would call the police if any further complaints were received.

Later that morning, after Thomas had left the Finches, the Shreveport Police Department got a telephone call from a friend of the Finches in North Carolina who was worried after having received a hang-up call from Mrs. Finch. An officer was dispatched to the Finch room at the Hilton and Mr. Finch was arrested and charged with domestic abuse, a violation of La. R.S. 14:35.3(L). According to the trial court, Mr. Finch eventually pled guilty to the charge.

On March 22, 2013, plaintiff, June Finch, acting in proper person, filed a petition against defendant, HRI Lodging, Inc., seeking damages for injuries she sustained at the hands of her husband, Sudhir Finch, after the security officer had left the room. Specifically, Mrs. Finch contended that the facial, head and neck injuries she sustained when her husband battered her in the hotel room were proximately caused by defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care in: training and supervising its employees regarding the handling of domestic disputes; protecting the safety and security of their guests; and, the security officer's inadequate response to the situation between plaintiff and her husband, which caused her to sustain additional injuries.

Defendant filed its answer on April 23, 2013, then filed a motion for summary judgment on September 27, 2013. This motion was set for [49,497 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] argument on December 2, 2013. Plaintiff filed a response to the motion for summary judgment, which included an affidavit, sent via fax on November 26, 2013. At the outset of the December 2, 2013, hearing, the trial judge noted that plaintiff's response was untimely. At that point, defense counsel moved to strike plaintiff's opposition and affidavit. The trial judge let plaintiff address the court, but rather than offer an explanation or ...


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