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Cangelosi v. Treasure Chest Casino, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

July 31, 2018





          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore


         This is a personal injury action for damages sustained in a slip and fall near the entrance of the Treasure Chest Casino, L.L.C. (Treasure Chest). The judgment on appeal is the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant/appellee, Treasure Chest. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm that judgment.


         Plaintiff/appellant, Linda Cangelosi, was walking with her son from the parking lot to the entrance of the Treasure Chest Casino on December 16, 2015. The fall occurred under the porte cochere, an outdoor open-ended tent that covers a portion of the roadway leading to and from the walkway entrance of the casino. A video of the fall shows that Ms. Cangelosi slipped and fell as she stepped from the roadway onto the walkway. The video also shows the ground was very wet, with puddles in both the roadway and the walkway.

         Ms. Cangelosi testified in her deposition that on the day of the accident, she went to the casino at about 6:00 p.m. with her son and a friend. Ms. Cangelosi explained that she and her son went there about three times a month to listen to music. This had been their custom for a "couple of years." On the day of the accident, it had rained all day and the ground was wet. Ms. Cangelosi arrived by vehicle under the porte cochere. It appears that they took advantage of the valet service provided by Treasure Chest. Ms. Cangelosi got out of the vehicle and walked across two traffic lanes. Then, as she stepped onto the adjacent walkway, she slipped in a puddle. One foot went out in front and the other went back, causing her to fall and injure her knee, hip, back and arm. Treasure Chest employees came out to assist and an emergency medical team was called. Ms. Cangelosi declined an offer to be taken to a hospital and went into the casino. About 45 minutes later, when she began experiencing pain in her right hip, she left the casino and went home.

         Ms. Cangelosi stated that she consulted Dr. Van Wormer the next day and treated with him for about a year. On Dr. Wormer's advice, Ms. Cangelosi consulted a neurologist who prescribed pain medication for her back pain. Since the accident, Ms. Cangelosi has been in pain and now requires the use of a walker.

         Ms. Cangelosi filed this action for damages on March 24, 2016. Upon completion of discovery, Ms. Cangelosi filed a motion for summary judgment on July 3, 2017. On July 28, 2017, Treasure Chest filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to strike the affidavit attached to Ms. Cangelosi's summary judgment motion. The trial court denied Ms. Cangelosi's motion for summary judgment and granted Treasure Chest's motion for summary judgment on November 16, 2017.[1] Ms. Cangelosi timely appealed that judgment.

         Ms. Cangelosi appears in proper person in this Court and has filed three motions to allow her son, Clayton Cangelosi, to orally argue for her before this Court. Considering that Clayton Cangelosi is neither a party to this litigation nor a duly licensed attorney, we denied the motions, finding that he cannot act in a representative capacity in this appeal.


         The first issue before this Court is the argument by Treasure Chest that the appeal should be dismissed and/or stricken because Ms. Cangelosi's pro se brief is not in conformance with Uniform Rules-Courts of Appeal, Rule 2-12.4. We agree with appellee that Ms. Cangelosi's brief is not in conformance with Rule 2-12.4 in that it does not contain several required items, including a statement of the jurisdiction of the court, a concise statement of the case, specification of errors, or issues for review. However, it does set forth the basic premise of her argument on appeal.

         Rule 2-12.4 does not provide for the dismissal of the appeal as a penalty for violating the rule.[2] Uniform Rules-Courts of Appeal, Rule 2-12.13, which addresses non-compliant briefs, provides that "[b]riefs not in compliance with these Rules may be stricken in whole or in part by the court, and the delinquent party ... may be ordered to file a new or amended brief." Thus, the sanction to be imposed for a non-conforming brief is left to the discretion of the court.[3] In the matter before us, we find that striking Ms. Cangelosi's brief would deprive her of her right to appeal and would be an unreasonably. Accordingly, we maintain Ms. Cangelosi's appeal and will consider the arguments made in her brief.

         In her first argument, Ms. Cangelosi asserts the trial court erred in granting her "Motion and Order to Release Evidence." The motion was filed on January 9, 2018 and relates to a "flash drive" video of the fall. The trial court denied that motion on January 10, 2018. Ms. Cangelosi argues she was unable to properly present her claim or prepare her brief without that flash drive. It is not clear from the brief which flash drive Ms. Cangelosi is referring to in this argument, or how the lack of access to the drive hindered the presentation of her claim or the preparation of her appeal brief. However, a video of the fall, and a flash drive were admitted into evidence in the trial court and have been made a part of the record in this Court. Although a party unrepresented by counsel is not permitted to withdraw a record from this Court, that party can make arrangements to view the record.[4] Therefore, Ms. Cangelosi had access to the evidence and could have made arraignments with this Court to view the video. She made no such request. Accordingly, we find no merit in this argument.

         The remainder of Ms. Cangelosi's arguments relate to the grant of the defense summary judgment. She asserts the walkway was defective and unreasonably dangerous, causing her to fall. Specifically, she argues the water on the walkway was brought in by passing cars and shuttle busses, and that a hazardous condition existed in the area of the fall due to improper drainage. Ms. Cangelosi also makes the claim that she has met her burden of proving a hazardous condition exists by her allegation that "all kinds of debris and liquids", including oils, dirt, and other dangerous slippery substances were on the walkway.

         Treasure Chest responds that summary judgment was properly granted because Ms. Cangelosi cannot prove a defect that presented an unreasonably dangerous condition about which Treasure Chest failed to warn its patrons. Treasure Chest asserts it used a non-skid product on the walkway that was specifically identified in response to an interrogatory. Further, Treasure Chest argues that any reference to the parish drainage code cannot be considered since this is new evidence and this argument ...

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