FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-02352,
DIVISION "DIV. J-5" HONORABLE CHERRELL S. TAPLIN,
DARLEEN M. JACOBS AL A SARRAT RENE D. LOVELACE JACOBS,
SARRAT, LOVELACE & HARRIS COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT
G. WATSON DUPLASS ZWAIN BOURGEOIOS PFISTER WEINSTOCK &
BOGART COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Daniel L.
Dysart, Judge Dale Atkins
F. MCKAY III, CHIEF JUDGE
action based on negligence, involving a fall on a stairway,
the plaintiff, Earline Couvillion, appeals the district
court's granting of a summary judgment in favor of the
defendants, Riverside Properties, L.L.C. and XYZ Insurance
Company. For the reasons that follow, we reverse
the district court's judgment and remand the matter for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 11, 2015, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Ms. Couvillion
was exiting the stairs of a building owned by Riverside
Properties and located at 5200 Coffee Drive, when she fell.
The stairs were cement, frayed on their edges and lacked a
handrail. As a result of her fall, Ms. Couvillion alleges
that she sustained the following injuries and damages:
internal derangement, disruption and subligmentous herniation
of the L3-L4 intervertebral discs; internal disruption and
herniation of the L2-L3 intervertebral discs; straightening
of the lumbar lordosis; acute lumbosacral strain; laceration,
contusion and strain of the left knee; and damage to the
L2-L3, L4 and L5 nerve roots.
Couvillion filed a lawsuit against Riverside Properties and
XYZ Insurance Company on March 7, 2016, alleging that the
sole and proximate cause of her accident was the negligence
of Riverside Properties and/or its agents in the following
respects: failing to properly maintain their stairways and
keep them safe for pedestrian traffic; failing to install
handrails on the stairways; failing to provide for the safety
of pedestrian traffic; and other acts of negligence to be
shown at the trial of this matter.
March 13, 2017, Riverside Properties filed a motion for
summary judgment, accompanied by a memorandum in support of
motion for summary judgment. The matter came before the
district court for hearing on August 11, 2017. Following
arguments by the parties, the court took the matter under
advisement, and on September 18, 2017 it issued a judgment
granting summary judgment on behalf of Riverside Properties.
It is from this judgment that Ms. Couvillion now appeals.
courts review a grant of a motion for summary judgment de
novo using the same criteria district courts consider
when determining if summary judgment is proper. Kennedy
v. Sheriff of East Baton Rouge, 2005-1418, p. 25 (La.
7/10/06), 935 So.2d 669, 686.
judgment procedure is favored in Louisiana and is designed to
secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of a
case. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(2). "After an opportunity
for adequate discovery, a motion for summary judgment shall
be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting
documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material
fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law." La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3). The burden of proof
remains with the mover, but if the mover does not bear the
burden of proof at trial on the issues before the court in
the motion for summary judgment, the mover is not required to
"negate all essential elements of the adverse
party's claim, action, or defense." La. C.C.P. art.
966(D)(1). The burden is on the adverse party to produce
factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a
genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.
instant case, Ms. Couvillion submits that there are a number
of material factual issues. These include: 1) the stairs were
worn; 2) the stairs were required to have handrails; 3) a
handrail would have helped the plaintiff; 4) Riverside should
have known of the defects in the steps and the lack of a
handrail; 5) the damages could have been prevented if
Riverside had exercised reasonable care by properly
maintaining the steps and by installing a handrail; and 6)
Riverside failed to exercise reasonable care. Ms. Couvillion
also submitted the affidavit and report of Dr. Fereydoun
Aghazadeh, a professional ...