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Campbell v. Evangeline Parish Police Jury

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 6, 2015

REBA CAMPBELL AND BRENT CAMPBELL
v.
EVANGELINE PARISH POLICE JURY, ET AL

Page 409

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 410

APPEAL FROM THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF EVANGELINE, NO. 70506-A. HONORABLE J. LARRY VIDRINE, DISTRICT JUDGE.

Jonathan C. Vidrine, Ville Platte, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Reba Campbell, Brent Campbell.

Michael W. Landry, Assistant Attorney General, Lake Charles, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: State of Louisiana, Department of Health and Hospitals.

Marcus L. Fontenot, Assistant District Attorney, Ville Platte, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Evangeline Parish Police Jury.

Court composed of Marc T. Amy, James T. Genovese, and John E. Conery, Judges.

OPINION

Page 411

[14-1301 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] MARC T. AMY, Judge.

The plaintiff contends that she slipped on a sidewalk outside the Evangeline Parish Medicaid Office and was injured as a result. The plaintiff and her husband filed suit against the owner of the building, the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, and the lessee of the building, the State of Louisiana, Department of Health and Hospitals. The lease between the Police Jury and the State contained an indemnity provision, and the plaintiffs filed a petition for declaratory judgment seeking a determination of whether the Police Jury would be responsible for damages pursuant to the indemnity provision or whether the State was responsible for damages because its employees assumed responsibility for the sidewalk. The trial court found that the State failed to notify the Police Jury about the condition of the sidewalk and that the State was liable for the plaintiff's injuries. The trial court also dismissed the Police Jury from the litigation. The State appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Factual and Procedural Background

According to the petition, Reba Campbell was walking on the sidewalk adjacent to the Evangeline Parish Medicaid Office when she slipped on a black or greenish area of the sidewalk and fell. Mrs. Campbell alleges that she was injured as a result. Both Mrs. Campbell and her husband, Brent Campbell, filed suit against the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, as the owner of the Medicaid Office building, and the State of Louisiana, Department of Health and Hospitals, as the lessee of the building. In its answer, the State asserted a cross-claim against the Police Jury on the basis that the lease between the State and the Police Jury provided that the Police Jury indemnify the State for any damages assessed due to [14-1301 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] the Police Jury's negligence and that the lease required the Police Jury to maintain the sidewalks.

Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a petition for declaratory judgment, seeking a determination of the rights of the parties under the lease, specifically whether the Police Jury was responsible under the provisions of the lease or whether the State had assumed responsibility for the sidewalks due to the actions of its employees. There was a hearing on that issue, at which the State's request for involuntary dismissal was denied. Subsequently, the trial court found that, although the Police Jury was responsible for maintaining the building, the State had not notified the Police Jury about this particular problem. Further, the trial court found that the State " did not take sufficient steps to insure the safety of its patrons who frequented or used the Medicaid offices[.]" Thus, the trial court determined that the State was responsible to the plaintiffs for Mrs. Campbell's injuries. The trial court also granted the Police Jury's oral motion for judgment as a matter of law and dismissed the Police Jury from the suit.

The State appeals, assigning as error:

1. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in determining that the State as lessee is responsible for the injuries resulting to Campbell.
2. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in denying the state's motion for judgment as a matter of law at the close of plaintiff's case.
3. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in determining that the police jury is not responsible for injuries caused by any defects in its premises which caused harm to Campbell.
4. The trial court committed legal error in dismissing a party after a hearing

Page 412

noticed for the limited purpose of hearing a petition for declaratory judgment.
5. The trial court committed legal error in dismissing the state's cross claim for indemnity as there was no evidence to support any [14-1301 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] conclusion other than the agreement between the parties to the lease was that the police jury defendant indemnify the state against any claim for damages resulting from the police jury's negligence in failing to maintain the premises.

Discussion

Declaratory Judgment


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