Appealed from the 20th Judicial District Court In
and for the Parish of East Feliciana, State of Louisiana
Docket Number 44, 573 I Division B, The Honorable William G.
Carmichael, Judge Presiding.
U. Grodner, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorney for Appellant
Plaintiff -Ceasar Shannon DOC # 085847.
Landry, Attorney General and Van A. Heard, Assistant Attorney
General Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorneys for Appellees
Defendants - Warden Darrell Vannoy and the State of
Louisiana, through the Department of Public Safety and
BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THERIOT, JJ.
Shannon, an inmate formerly in the custody of the Louisiana
Department of Public Safety and Corrections
("DPSC"), and housed at Dixon Correctional
Institute during all relevant times, appeals a judgment of
the district court sustaining an exception of prescription in
favor of the defendants-Dixon Correctional Institute Warden
Darrell Vannoy and the State of Louisiana, through the
DPSC-and dismissing Mr. Shannon's claims, with prejudice.
For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Shannon, an inmate formerly in the custody of the DPSC was
housed at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, East
Feliciana Parish, Louisiana during all material times herein.
Mr. Shannon alleged his cell had a "large hole" in
the ceiling that leaked water when it rained and that he and
other inmates made multiple complaints and maintenance
requests to fix the hole. According to Mr. Shannon,
five-gallon buckets were often placed on the floor to catch
rainwater. Mr. Shannon contends that on May 28, 2014,
rainwater leaked through the hole and onto the floor and when
he arose to go to the bathroom during the night, he allegedly
slipped in a puddle and fell, sustaining injuries to his
back, shoulder, and hip.
days later, on June 2, 2014, Mr. Shannon filed a grievance in
accordance with the Louisiana Corrections Administrative
Remedy Procedure Act ("CARP"), La. R.S.
15:1171-1179, assigned case number DCI-2014-550, seeking
formal review of his alleged slip-and-fall incident. Mr.
Shannon exhausted his administrative remedy procedure
("ARP") on February 6, 2015, when his grievance was
denied through the second step.
in July 2015, Mr. Shannon filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action in federal court against Darrel Vannoy, employed by
Dixon Correctional Institute as the Warden. Mr. Shannon
advanced claims of negligence as well as deliberate
indifference and violations of his civil rights under the
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42
U.S.C. § 1983. See Shannon v. Vannoy, No. CV
15-446-SDD-RLB (M.D. La.).
October 2015, Warden Vannoy filed a motion to dismiss Mr.
Shannon's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that inmate slip-and-fall
cases are properly characterized as state law tort claims and
are not actionable under § 1983. On April 18, 2016, the
federal district court granted Warden Vannoy's motion to
dismiss, and dismissed all of Mr. Shannon's federal
claims against Warden Vannoy, with prejudice. See
Shannon v. Vannoy, No. CV 15-446-SDD-RLB (M.D. La.
Apr. 18, 2016), 2016 WL 1559583 (unpublished). The federal
district court held that Mr. Shannon's negligence claim
is a state law tort claim, which is not actionable under
federal law, as § 1983 requires a plaintiff to show
deprivation of a federal right. Id., 2016 WL
1559583, at *2. As to the alleged violations of his Eighth
Amendment rights, the federal district court held that Mr.
Shannon's allegations failed to state a claim
sufficiently serious to constitute deliberate indifference
under the applicable legal standards. Id., 2016 WL
1559583, at *4. Finally, the federal district court declined
to exercise 28 U.S.C. § 1367 supplemental jurisdiction
over Mr. Shannon's state law claims (i.e.,
negligence claim), which the federal district court
dismissed, without prejudice. Id.
March 16, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth
Circuit affirmed the federal district court's judgment.
Shannon v. Vannoy, 682 Fed.Appx. 283, 284 (5th Cir.
April 11, 2017, Mr. Shannon filed the instant lawsuit in the
20th Judicial District Court ("JDC") in
East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, which is the parish where
Dixon Correctional Institute is located. Mr. Shannon named as
defendants Warden Vannoy, acting within the course and scope
of his employment with the DPSC during all material times and
under the color of state law, and the State of Louisiana,
through the DPSC.
defendants filed a peremptory exception raising the
objections of prescription, no cause of action, and res
judicata. Regarding prescription, the defendants argued
that Mr. Shannon's state law tort claims were prescribed
because he filed suit outside of the one-year liberative
prescriptive period applicable to delictual actions. The
defendants argued that prescription on Mr. Shannon's
claims began running on the date of his alleged accident, May
28, 2014. Prescription on his claims was suspended when he
filed his ARP on June 2, 2014, which continued until the
final decision on his ARP was delivered on February 6, 2015.
During that period, prescription was suspended and began to
run again from the date of exhaustion of the ARP, February 6,
2015, which pushed back the tolling of prescription to
February 1, 2016. Because Mr. Shannon did not file suit in
state district court until April 11, 2017, the defendants
argued his state law tort claims had prescribed.
defendants further argued that the federal suit, which only
named Warden Vannoy (in his official capacity) as a
defendant, did not serve to interrupt or suspend prescription
against Warden Vannoy or the State, through the DPSC. Mr.
Shannon's state law tort claims against Warden Vannoy
arose out of the warden's employment at Dixon
Correctional Institute. In accordance with the doctrine of
vicarious liability, the defendants argue that claims against
employees that arise out of their employment must be brought
against the employer, not the individual employee. Warden
Vannoy's employer is the State, through the DPSC; thus,
the defendants contend that Mr. Shannon's federal suit
against Warden Vannoy should have also been filed against the
State, through the DPSC. However, the defendants argued that
the State is immune to suit on state law claims brought in
federal court. Therefore, because Mr. Shannon only named
Warden Vannoy as defendant in the federal suit, when he
should have also named as defendant the State, through the
DPSC, as the warden's employer, the federal suit against
Warden Vannoy could not serve to interrupt or suspend
prescription on Mr. Shannon's state law tort claims
against Warden Vannoy and the State, through the DPSC.
Shannon opposed the defendants' exceptions. As to the
exception of prescription, Mr. Shannon contended that the
federal suit did interrupt prescription on his state law tort
claims, and thus, his suit in state court was timely filed
against the defendants. Even though the DPSC was not named as
a defendant in the federal suit, Mr. Shannon argued that
through vicarious liability, an employer is liable for the
torts of its employees committed in the course and scope of
employment, making the employee and employer solidary
obligors. Accordingly, Mr. Shannon averred that when
prescription is interrupted against a solidary obligor, the
interruption is effective against all solidary obligors. Mr.
Shannon argued that the filing of the federal suit
interrupted prescription as to Warden Vannoy. Since Warden
Vannoy is an employee of the DPSC, Mr. Shannon averred that
interruption was also effective against his employer, the
State, through the DPSC.
a hearing on September 11, 2017, the district court sustained
the defendants' objection of prescription, dismissing all
of Mr. Shannon's claims against the defendants, with
prejudice. The district court ruled as follows:
The exception of prescription is sustained. I find that Mr.
Vannoy was not timely served with the action in the Federal
court. This is a final judgment because it terminates the
litigation between the parties.
I mean to dismiss all -- this action against all of the
defendants as having been prescribed.
district court signed a judgment in accordance with its
ruling on October 4, 2017. The judgment pretermitted a ruling on
the defendants' objections of no cause of ...