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Luke v. Cplace Forest Park SNF, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 18, 2018

ERYON LUKE
v.
CPLACE FOREST PARK SNF, LLC

          On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket No. C621493, Section 23 Honorable William A. Morvant, Judge Presiding

          Victor J. Woods, Jr. Addis, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Eryon Luke.

          Christine S. Keenan Melissa M. Samuel Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Defendant/ Appellees Traditions Senior Management, Inc. and CPlace Forest Park SNF, LLC, d/ b/ a Nottingham Regional Rehab Center.

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THE RIOT, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         Appellant seeks review of a trial court judgment sustaining the appellee's peremptory exception raising the objection of prescription. For the following reasons, we reverse.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 15, 2013, Eryon Luke (plaintiff) filed suit against her former employer, CPlace Forest Park SNF, LLC, d/b/a Nottingham Regional Rehab Center (Nottingham). She alleged, among other things, that Nottingham terminated her due to her pregnancy, in violation of both federal and state law.[1] Plaintiff also alleged that Nottingham violated LSA-R.S. 23:342(4), concerning unlawful employment practices, by refusing to temporarily transfer her to a less strenuous or hazardous position for the duration of her pregnancy.[2] Following removal to federal court and a complex procedural history resulting in dismissal of plaintiff's federal claims, [3] plaintiff's state law claims were remanded to state district court on November 4, 2014.

         On November 28, 2016, plaintiff filed a Supplemental and Amended Petition, seeking to add Traditions Senior Management, Inc. (Traditions) as an additional defendant. Plaintiff alleged that Traditions was also her employer and that both Traditions and Nottingham had violated the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law ("LEDL") by failing to accommodate plaintiff during her pregnancy. Plaintiff also reiterated the prayer of her original petition and sought judgment against the defendants jointly and in solido.

         On January 10, 2017, Traditions filed a peremptory exception raising the objection of prescription. Traditions noted that claims brought under the LEDL were subject to a one-year prescriptive period. See LSA-R.S. 23:303(D). Because plaintiff had been terminated on May 24, 2012, Traditions contended that plaintiff's claims against it prescribed no later than May 24, 2013. As such, Traditions asserted that plaintiff's amended petition filed on November 28, 2016 was untimely. In opposition, plaintiff asserted that her claims against Traditions related back to the filing of the original petition since Traditions was aware of plaintiff's claims and of the underlying litigation, given its close working relationship with Nottingham.

         Following a hearing, the trial court sustained the exception raising the objection of prescription and dismissed plaintiff's claims against Traditions with prejudice. Plaintiff has appealed, seeking review of the trial court's judgment granting Traditions' exception of prescription.

         DISCUSSION

         As a general rule, prescription statutes "are strictly construed against prescription and in favor of the obligation sought to be extinguished." Taranto v. Louisiana Citizens Property Ins. Corp., 10-0105 (La. 3/15/11), 62 So.3d 721, 726. Ordinarily, the party urging prescription bears the burden of proof at trial of the exception; however, if the petition is prescribed on its face, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show the action is not prescribed. Taranto, 62 So.3d at 726.

         We note that both the parties and the trial court focused on whether plaintiff's amended petition adding Traditions as a defendant related back to her timely filed petition against Nottingham. See LSA-C.C.P. art. 1153.[4] However, if Nottingham and Traditions are either joint tortfeasors or solidary obligors then a timely filed suit against one would interrupt prescription against the other and the discussion of relation back under LSA-C.C.P. art. 1153 would be moot See McKenzie v. Imperial Fire and Cas. Ins. Co., 12-1648 (La.App. 1 Cir. 7/30/13), 122 So.3d 42, 53 n.13 ("Once a plaintiff establishes that a joint tortfeasor has been timely sued, consideration of the concept of relating back under La. C.C.P. art. 1153 to interrupt ...


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