Appeal from The 20th Judicial District Court, Parish of West
Feliciana, State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 22100 The
Honorable Kathryn J. Jones, Judge Presiding
M. Bruno Daniel A. Meyer New Orleans, Louisiana Attorneys for
Plaintiff/ Appellant, Elizabeth Alvarado
Scott Rainwater Chris W. Caswell Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Attorneys for Defendants/ Appellees, Lodge at the Bluffs
Condominium Association, Inc. and James River Insurance
BEFORE: WELCH, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.
plaintiff appeals a summary judgment dismissing her tort
claims against the defendants. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Alvarado alleges that she sustained injuries on August 6,
2013, when a stool collapsed beneath her while she and her
husband, Dr. Luis Alvarado, were paid guests at The Lodge at
the Bluffs, a condominium resort in St. Francisville,
Louisiana. On March 24, 2014, Elizabeth filed suit against
the Lodge at the Bluffs Condominium Association, Inc., and
its insurer, James River Insurance Company, as well as Cole
P. Properties, L.L.C., the owner of the condominium unit in
which the stool was located.
denying any liability, the Lodge and Cole Properties filed
motions for summary judgment seeking a dismissal of
Elizabeth's claims. The Lodge asserted that it did not
own or maintain the stool and that it had no prior knowledge
of any defects in the stool. Cole Properties did not dispute
that it owned the unit, but contended that it did not have
custody or garde of the stool, because the Lodge
contractually assumed that responsibility. Cole Properties
further asserted that the plaintiff could not prove that the
stool had a defect or that Cole Properties knew or should
have known of any defect. Elizabeth opposed both motions.
evidence offered in connection with the motions for summary
judgment established that the condominium unit leased by the
Alvarados was owned by Cole Properties and was included in a
"rental pool." For units included in the rental
pool, the resort functioned much like a hotel, with the Lodge
being responsible for booking guests, collecting and
remitting rent, and cleaning the units before and after a
interior of each unit, including the furniture, was owned by
the respective unit owners. The furniture in the subject unit
(sometimes referred to as "unit 10") included a
small stool that was located in front of a vanity and mirror.
The stool, according to both Elizabeth and Luis, appeared
normal and did not look broken or otherwise unusable. As
Elizabeth prepared to use the vanity area, she sat on the
stool and it collapsed, causing her to fall to the floor.
After assisting his wife, Luis inspected the stool and
immediately noticed that two or three screws were missing
from its underside. Luis searched throughout the room for the
screws but did not find them.
the incident was reported, an employee of the Lodge,
Elizabeth Smith, came to unit 10 and observed the bottom of
the stool where the screws were missing. After looking around
on the floor, Smith was also unable to find any of the
missing screws. Smith prepared a statement documenting the
accident, wherein she stated, in relevant part, "Mrs.
Alvarado, a guest in Unit 10, sat on the vanity stool and it
collapsed under her, due to two missing screws."
Photographs of the stool attached to Smith's deposition
show empty screw holes where the legs of the stool attach to
denying responsibility for the stool's condition, both
defendants relied upon provisions contained in the
"RENTAL POOL AGREEMENT" applicable to unit 10.
Pursuant to that agreement, Cole Properties was responsible
for furnishing and maintaining the unit, but the Lodge was
obligated to make reasonable efforts to notify Cole
Properties of any necessary repairs. The Lodge also had the
right to make the repairs, but the cost of the repairs had to
be paid by Cole Properties.
of representatives of both defendants were also introduced in
connection with the motions. A representative of the Lodge
testified that the unit owner was responsible for everything
inside a unit, including the furniture. However, according to
a representative of Cole Properties, the owner relied on the
Lodge to maintain, inspect, and repair the unit.
evidence also established that condominium units in the
rental pool were cleaned by employees of the Lodge before and
after each rental by a guest. If a member of the cleaning
staff noticed any issues with a unit, the matter was noted in
a cleaning report and was communicated to a supervisor for
further attention. The Lodge was not aware of any reported
problems for unit 10; and the cleaning reports for ...