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Stevens v. City of Shreveport

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 19, 2014

DORIS STEVENS, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
CITY OF SHREVEPORT and CENTERPOINT ENERGY RESOURCES CORP. Defendants-Appellees

Page 1072

Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 567,597. Honorable Roy L. Brun, Judge.

DORIS STEVENS, In Proper Person.

LAW OFFICES OF RONALD F. LATTIER, LLC, By: Ronald F. Lattier, Curtis R. Joseph, Jr., Senae D. Hall, Counsel for Appellee, City of Shreveport.

BARHAM WARNER STROUD, LLC, By: Richard G. Barham, Counsel for Appellee, CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp.

Before MOORE, PITMAN and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1073

[49,437-CA La.App. 2 Cir. 1] GARRETT, J.

The plaintiff, Doris Stevens, appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgments in favor of the defendants, City of Shreveport (" City" ) and CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp. (" CenterPoint" ), dismissing her claims. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS

On April 11, 2013, the plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed a petition for damages against the City and CenterPoint. Stevens alleged that on April 17, 2012, she was riding a bicycle on a sidewalk on Lakeshore Drive when she rode into a section where the concrete was missing. Stevens claimed her bicycle flipped and she was injured. Stevens asserted that people in the neighborhood told her CenterPoint had been doing work on the sidewalk. She alleged that the defendants knew or should have known of the defective condition of the sidewalk. Both defendants answered and denied any liability.

Discovery was undertaken. Stevens and representatives from the City and CenterPoint were deposed. On September 13, 2013, the matter was set for a jury trial on February 24, 2014. On October 31, 2013, the plaintiff's attorney sent her a withdrawal letter, candidly stating that the cost of litigation outweighed any potential settlement that might be received for her claim. The withdrawal letter advised that the matter was set for jury trial on February 24, 2014, and there were no motions pending before the court. A motion to withdraw was filed on November 5, 2013, and the order allowing the withdrawal was signed by the trial court on November 7, 2013.

On November 20, 2013, CenterPoint filed a motion for summary judgment. On January 3, 2014, the City filed its motion for summary [49,437-CA La.App. 2 Cir. 2] judgment. The legal bases for these motions and the evidence submitted in support of them are discussed below. Stevens then applied for in forma pauperis status, which was granted by the trial court on January 16, 2014.

Both motions for summary judgment were considered on February 3, 2014. Stevens had not hired new counsel and proceeded pro se. Although Stevens was served with the motions, it appears that she erroneously thought that she was appearing in court for a trial.[1] No written response or opposition to the motions for summary judgment was filed by Stevens. The trial court granted the summary judgments

Page 1074

in favor of the defendants. Stevens appealed.

SELF REPRESENTATION

Stevens is representing herself on appeal. She states in her brief that she requested a continuance on February 3, 2014, in order to secure a new attorney, but her request was omitted from the transcript of the hearing. The record shows that Stevens was personally notified on October 31, 2013, that her attorney was withdrawing, that her case was set for a jury trial on February 24, 2014, and at that point no motions were pending. The hearing on the motions was held on February 3, 2014. As noted by the trial court, Stevens had three months to hire another attorney to represent her in this matter and she failed to do so. The record shows that the trial court had carefully reviewed the motions for summary judgment, together with the evidence submitted in support of the motions, prior to the hearing. The court noted its review of the suit indicated that no opposition had been filed. The [49,437-CA La.App. 2 Cir. 3] court also patiently listened to the plaintiff's comments in court. Contrary to the ...


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