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Henderson v. Haza Foods of Louisiana, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 13, 2018

WANDA HENDERSON
v.
HAZA FOODS OF LOUISIANA, LLC

         SECTION “R” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are defendant Haza Foods of Louisiana, LLC's (Haza's) (1) motion for summary judgment, and (2) motion for sanctions against plaintiff Wanda Henderson.[1] Because plaintiff's previous suit did not interrupt the prescriptive period for her claims, the Court grants the motion for summary judgment. It denies defendant's motion for sanctions as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of plaintiff's alleged fall in defendant's restaurant.[2]Plaintiff allegedly visited a Wendy's restaurant owned by Haza on December 24, 2016.[3] While she was there, she alleges that she fell on a moist floor and injured herself.[4] She alleges that her injuries required surgical intervention and admission to the hospital.[5]

         Plaintiff initially filed a complaint in Louisiana state court on December 18, 2017, against “Allstate BK Real Estate Holdings, d/b/a Haza Foods, LLC/Wendy's” (Allstate).[6] Allstate is a company that shares an address with Haza, but it does not own the Wendy's in which Henderson allegedly fell.[7] Allstate removed this action to federal court on January 25, 2018.[8] On March 21, 2018, this Court dismissed plaintiff's claims against Allstate for lack of personal jurisdiction, because Allstate does not do business in Louisiana.[9]

         On March 23, 2018, plaintiff filed a new complaint in federal court, based on the same underlying facts, against Haza.[10] Plaintiff claims that Haza was negligent in failing to correct a defect on its property, ignoring an unsafe condition, failing to inspect, and other general acts of negligence.[11]Plaintiff seeks damages for physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of income, medical expenses, travel expenses, and permanent disability.[12]Haza has moved for summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff's complaint against it is untimely.[13] Plaintiff opposes the motion.[14]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is warranted when “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrain[s] from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398-99 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but “unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth ‘ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient to either support or defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp., 754 F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985); see also Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable [factfinder] could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with evidence sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, or “showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id. at 1265.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id.; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (“Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Haza moves for summary judgment on the basis that Henderson's claims against it are time barred.[15] Henderson's claims are subject to a liberative prescription of one year. See La. Civ. Code art. 3492 (“Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year . . . from the day injury or damage is sustained.”); Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 869 F.2d 879, 880 (5th Cir. 1989) (holding that “federal courts apply state statutes of limitations and related state law governing tolling of the limitation period” in diversity cases). The one-year period is interrupted “when the obligee commences action against the obligor, in a court of competent jurisdiction and venue.” La. Civ. Code art. 3462. A court of competent jurisdiction is “a court which has jurisdiction over the subject matter of, and is the proper venue for, the action or proceeding.” La. Code Civ. Pro. 5251(4); see also Pickard v. Baugh, 565 So.2d 1102, 1103 (La. Ct. App. 1990) (holding that competent jurisdiction “does not include jurisdiction over the person”). The prescriptive period is interrupted until judgment in the first suit is final, at which point the prescriptive period begins anew, and a plaintiff has another year to file a second lawsuit. La. Civ. Code art. 3466; see also Terrel v. Perkins, 704 So.2d 35, 38 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1997) (holding that plaintiff had one year from the final judgment of the first suit to bring a second suit).

         Plaintiff filed this action on March 23, 2018, more than one year after the alleged accident, which she claims occurred on December 24, 2016.[16] But plaintiff argues that the prescriptive period was interrupted by the earlier lawsuit that she filed in Louisiana state court.[17]See La. Civ. Code art. 3462. Plaintiff timely filed the first action in state court on December 18, 2017. If that suit interrupted prescription, plaintiff would have one year from a final judgment in the case against Allstate to commence the instant ...


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