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Crump v. Lake Bruin Recreation and Water Conservation District

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 10, 2019

JOHNNIE CRUMP Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
LAKE BRUIN RECREATION AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Tensas, Louisiana Trial Court No. 23, 843 Division "A" Honorable Michael E. Lancaster, Judge

          ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO Counsel for Appellant

          GOLD, WEEMS, BRUSER, SUES & RUNDELL By: Eugene J. Sues Brandon A. Sues Counsel for Appellee Lake Bruin Recreation and Water Conservation District

          BLAKE E. RYLAND LEISA B. LAWSON ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERALS Counsel for Appellee La. Dept. of Culture, Recreation & Tourism

          Before MOORE, PITMAN, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Johnnie Crump appeals a judgment that sustained two motions for summary judgment and dismissed his personal injury claims. For the reasons expressed, we affirm.

         FACTS

         In May 2015, Crump went to Lake Bruin State Park, in Tensas Parish, to go fishing. He entered the park, walked out on one of the piers, set down his tackle box, and turned around to get something out of his car. However, on his first step toward the car, his right foot went through a rotten plank. He fell backwards, his right leg going all the way through the hole, and the rest of him trapped on the surface of the pier until EMTs arrived. The incident cut and scraped his right leg, sprained his left wrist, and generally hurt his shoulder, neck and back.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Crump filed this suit against the Lake Bruin Recreation & Water Conservation District ("the Conservation District") on May 9, 2016, alleging that it was a political subdivision of the State of Louisiana and was either negligent or strictly liable for his injuries.

         The Conservation District filed an exception of no cause of action as to any claim for strict liability; the district court sustained this, based on La. R.S. 9:2800 C, and Crump did not seek review of that ruling. The court set trial for September 18, 2017. The State of Louisiana, though not named a defendant, filed an answer denying any liability.

         Crump filed a supplemental and amending petition joining as defendant the State Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism ("the State") on November 21, 2016. This alleged that the State maintained the park premises and failed to inspect or repair the pier. The State answered asserting the Recreational Use Immunity statute, La. R.S. 9:2795.

         In April 2017, the Conservation District filed the instant motion for summary judgment asserting that it did not own, maintain, control, or have care or responsibility for the park; rather, the State did. In support, it attached the affidavit of its president, David McEacharn, who attested to these facts and that the Conservation District did not even have any employees at the park. The court set the MSJ for hearing on August 2.

         In May 2017, the State filed a motion to substitute counsel. Within a few weeks, new counsel noticed a records deposition to Crump regarding his income for the three preceding years. On June 16, the State asked for a continuance of the trial, set for September 18, since counsel had just enrolled.

         On the same date, June 16, the State filed this motion for summary judgment asserting R.S. 9:2795. In support, it attached the deposition of the program director of the Office of State Parks, Gary Ramsey, who asserted that Lake Bruin was a state park, not commercial, and was designed for recreational purposes; and that there had been no other accidents reported on its piers. The court set this MSJ for hearing also on August 2.

         A month later, on July 17, the State filed an "unopposed" motion for continuance urging that discovery was not yet complete. The court reset ...


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