United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
MARIA STEFFAN FRANK, ET AL.
PNK (LAKE CHARLES), LLC
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KATHLEEN KAY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 25] and
request for costs filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 by defendant PNK (Lake Charles), LLC
(“PNK”). The motion is unopposed. Doc. 33. This
matter has been referred to the undersigned for review,
report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions
of 28 U.S.C. § 636.
case arises from the death of Betty Steffan, which plaintiffs
assert was due to head injuries that she suffered when she
fell while trying to sit on a swivel stool in front of a slot
machine at the L'Auberge du Lac casino in Lake Charles,
Louisiana. Doc. 1, att. 1, p. 7. Plaintiffs filed a wrongful
death and survival action in the 189th Judicial District
Court, Harris County, Texas, against the casino's owner,
PNK, seeking damages exceeding $1, 000, 000 based on
PNK's alleged negligence, breach of warranty, and
premises liability.[1" name="FN1" id=
"FN1">1] Id. at pp. 4, 6, 9-16.
removed the case to the United State District Court for the
Southern District of Texas, [doc. 1], and immediately filed a
motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to transfer the case.
Doc. 3. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes found that personal
jurisdiction over PNK was lacking in the Southern District of
Texas but determined it was proper in United State District
Court for the Western District of Louisiana, and thus ordered
the case transferred to this court. Docs. 16-18. After
transfer, PNK filed the instant motion for summary judgment.
Doc. 25. Plaintiffs do not oppose the motion but instead
announce their intention to appeal Judge Hughes' transfer
order. Doc. 33.
judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material only when it
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,
and a fact is genuinely in dispute only if a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Fordoche, Inc. v. Texaco, Inc., 463 F.3d 388, 392
(5th Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The moving party bears
the initial burden of showing that there is an absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 17');">477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After such a showing,
the burden shifts to the non-movant to show that there is a
genuine factual issue for trial by citing specific evidence
in the record, beyond the pleadings, that supports its
assertions that a material fact is genuinely in dispute.
Id. at 324; see also Diaz v. Kaplan Higher
Educ., L.L.C., 172');">820 F.3d 172, 176 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing
Ragas v. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co., 136 F.3d 455');">136 F.3d 455, 458
(5th Cir. 1998)). The court may not weigh evidence or make
credibility determinations when considering a motion for
summary judgment. Leonard v. Dixie Well Serv. &
Supply, Inc., 1');">828 F.2d 291, 294 (5th Cir. 1987) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). “The evidence of
the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable
inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id.
parties agree that the accident which allegedly resulted in
Betty Steffan's death occurred on November 30, 2015, and
that plaintiffs filed their original suit in Texas state
court on November 14, 2017. Doc. 25, att. 2, p. 1; doc. 33,
att. 1, p. 1. Under Texas law, plaintiffs' claims are
timely as they were brought within two years from the date of
the injury. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003.
However, as PNK correctly notes, a federal court sitting in
diversity jurisdiction must apply the choice of law rules of
the state in which it sits. Williams v. Liberty Mut. Ins.
Co., 1 F.3d 617');">741 F.3d 617, 620 (5th Cir. 2014). Thus, we must
look to Louisiana's choice of law principles to determine
which state's substantive law applies.
general conflict of law provision for delictual and
quasi-delictual obligations provides that such actions are
“governed by the law of the state whose policies would
be most seriously impaired if its laws were not applied to
that issue.” La. Civ. Code art. 3542. According to
Louisiana Civil Code article 3543, “[i]ssues pertaining
to standards of conduct and safety are governed by the law of
the state in which the conduct that caused the injury
occurred, if the injury occurred in that state or in another
state whose law did not provide for a higher standard of
conduct.” The provisions of Article 3543, when
applicable, generally prevail over those of Article 3542.
Id. at art. 3543, cmt. (b).
matter, the alleged conduct and injury occurred in Louisiana.
Therefore, art. 3543 mandates that Louisiana law governs
plaintiffs' claims. Under La. Civ. Code art. 3492, all
tort claims are subject to a prescriptive period of one year
from the date the injury occurred or damage was sustained.
Because it is undisputed that suit was filed almost two years
after Betty Steffan died from the head injuries she allegedly
suffered in the fall, plaintiffs' claims are prescribed
under Louisiana law. Thus, PNK's motion for summary
judgment should be granted. However, we emphasize that this
ruling should pertain only to whether the claims can proceed
under Louisiana law. It should have no impact on
plaintiffs' ability to proceed in the event that the
action is reinstated in Texas and it is determined under
Texas choice of law principles that Texas law governs the
the court enters a judgment, “costs-other than
attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing
party, ” unless otherwise provided elsewhere in those
rules or by court order or federal statute. Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(d)(1). Under Rule 54(d), there is thus a presumption that
the prevailing party is entitled to costs. However, courts
have invoked “a wide range of reasons . . . to justify
withholding costs from the prevailing party, ”
including “enormous” financial resources of the
prevailing party and the fact that the action was prosecuted
in good faith by the non-prevailing party. Pacheco v.
Mineta, 448 F.3d 783, 794 (5th Cir. 2006). Here the
prevailing party, a casino operator, is evidently
well-resourced. We also note that the prescription issue
arose because PNK had succeeded in having the ...