Appealed from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and
for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket
Number 607, 915 Section 27 The Honorable Todd W. Hernandez,
Jeffrey M. Landry Attorney General Baton Rouge, Louisiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT DEFENDANT-The Board of Supervisors
for the University of Louisiana System
Patrick B. McIntire Stephen J. Oats Michael L. Barras Special
Assistant Attorneys General Lafayette, Louisiana Jill L.
Craft Baton Rouge, Louisiana ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE
PLAINTIFF-Dr. Sally Dobyns
Before: Welch, Chutz, and Lanier, JJ.
action commenced with a suit for damages filed by the
plaintiff, Dr. Sally Dobyns, against her former employer and
the defendant herein, the Board of Supervisors for the
University of Louisiana System on behalf of The University of
Louisiana at Lafayette (the "Board"), wherein Dr.
Dobyns alleged disability-based harassment and denial of
accommodations in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§
12101-11217, and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law
("LEDL"), La. R.S. 23:301, et seq., and
retaliation in violation of the ADA and the Louisiana
whistleblower statute, La. R.S. 23:967. Following a jury
trial, the jury rendered its verdict in favor of Dr. Dobyns
and against the Board on her retaliation claim and awarded
damages to Dr. Dobyns in the amount of $25, 000.00. In this
appeal, the Board challenges the trial court's September
18, 2017 judgment rendered in accordance with the jury's
verdict. For the following reasons, we affirm.
related, pending appeal-2018 CA 0488-Dr. Dobyns challenges
the trial court's ruling that granted the Board's
motion to dismiss her claim for attorney's fees with
and Procedural History
August 1992, Dr. Dobyns was hired as an Assistant Professor
at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette ("UL").
Dr. Dobyns was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor,
then Full Professor, and finally, appointed as Director of
the Center for Gifted Education and the Coordinator for the
Master of Education ("M.Ed.") Program in Gifted
Dobyns alleged that at all times pertinent hereto, she was a
qualified individual with a disability within the meaning and
intent of the ADA and the LEDL in that she had an actual
impairment, had a record of impairment, and was regarded by
the Board as disabled. Dr. Dobyns alleged that she suffered
from severe allergies due to the many environmental allergens
in south Louisiana, which resulted in a compromised immune
system. Dr. Dobyns contended that on January 31, 2008, she
advised the Board of her disability and that UL's
then-acting Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Stephen
Landry, made recommendations for a plan of action to
accommodate her disability that still allowed her to fulfill
her academic duties at UL.
on October 15, 2008, Dr. Dobyns submitted a written request,
styled as a request for accommodations ("Request for
Reasonable Accommodations for Physical Disability"), to
Dr. Landry, attaching letters from her treating physicians
who recommended that during the winter months (i.e.,
December through February), she be allowed to work in a
northern, non-pollinating climate in order to allow her
compromised immune system to rest and reset. Dr. Dobyns
included a plan for the ways that she would be able to
fulfill her responsibilities to UL during the time she was
away, including alternative scheduling augmented by distance
learning options to meet the requirements for her courses.
Dr. Dobyns stated that her department head, Dr. Christine
Briggs, approved her proposed accommodation.
November 24, 2008, Dr. Landry responded in writing to Dr.
Dobyns's request, stating: "It is my understanding
that you are requesting sick leave because of your documented
medical conditions and hence you must apply for and document
sick leave[, ] which will be approved based upon both your
accumulated hours of sick leave and the physician statements
provided," and included an excerpt of the UL Faculty
Handbook's "Policy on Utilization of Sick or Annual
to her petition, Dr. Dobyns alleged that the Board
accommodated her disability by allowing her to work from
Connecticut during the winter months, where she was able to
fulfill all of her responsibilities to UL, beginning in
December 2008, without taking sick leave. Dr. Dobyns departed
for Connecticut on November 26, 2008, without authorization
from the Board to be absent from campus and without taking
Dobyns claimed that her accommodation continued until Dr.
Carolyn Bruder became Interim Vice-President of Academic
Affairs at UL in January 2011. In January 2011, Dr. Dobyns
submitted a request for compensation for the summers of 2009
and 2010. On February 14, 2011, she received an email from
Dr. Bruder questioning her absence from the UL campus and why
she had not applied for sick leave. In May 2011, Dr. Dobyns
met with Dr. Bruder (along with Dr. Briggs), wherein Dr.
Bruder informed Dr. Dobyns that her pay for the summers of
2009 and 2010 would be reduced for work Dr. Dobyns alleged
she had already completed and for compensation that had
already been approved. Dr. Dobyns claimed the reason given to
her by Dr. Bruder was that she "had not been
present" on the UL campus.
repeatedly reporting what she alleged as disability-based
harassment, denials of her repeated requests for continued
accommodations, and retaliation, Dr. Dobyns filed a charge of
discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") and the Louisiana Commission on
Human Rights ("LCHR") on August 12, 2011, wherein
Since May 2, 2011, I have been subjected to harassment,
ridicule, and treatment different than others in the presence
of my colleagues and Department Head, by Dr. Carolyn Bruder,
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. ... I have also
been denied accommodations for my disability [handwritten].
According to Dr. Carolyn Bruder, she did "not agree with
the rate of reimbursement" for summer work already
approved and performed (as far back as the year 2000.)[.]
I believe that I have been discriminated against in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) due to
disability; and retaliation for opposing practices made
unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
on August 15, 2011, Dr. Gerald Carlson, Dean of the College
of Education, informed Dr. Dobyns that she was being removed
from her position as Director of the Center for Gifted
Dobyns subsequently filed suit against the Board on December
22, 2011. Specifically, Dr. Dobyns alleged
disability-based harassment and failure to accommodate in
violation of the ADA and the LEDL, and retaliation in
violation of the ADA and La. R.S. 23:967, in response to her
complaints and protests that began in early 2011, when Dr.
Bruder became Interim Vice-President for Academic Affairs at
UL. Dr. Dobyns retired from UL in July 2013.
a six-day jury trial held February 6-13, 2017, the jury
issued its verdict on February 13, 2017, in favor of Dr.
Dobyns and against the Board on her retaliation claim and
awarded damages to Dr. Dobyns in the amount of $25, 000.00.
trial court signed a judgment on September 18, 2017,
the jury verdict, the damages award, attorney's fees, and
costs, which decreed:
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that
Judgment in accordance with the Jury Verdict be and is hereby
rendered in favor of Plaintiff, Sally Dobyns, and against
Defendant, the Board of Supervisors for the University of
Louisiana System for unlawful retaliation.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED
that there be a judgment against Defendant and in favor of
Plaintiff for compensatory damages in the amount of Twenty
Five Thousand and No/100 Dollars ($25, 000.00) together with
legal interest from the date of judicial demand until paid.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED
that the determination of the amount of attorney's fees
and costs to which Plaintiff may be entitled is excluded from
this Final Judgment, which is a final judgment in all other
respects, and that this Court shall retain jurisdiction to
determine the issue of attorney's fees and costs.
September 21, 2017, the trial court signed another judgment
on the jury verdict, the damages award, court costs, and the
Board's motion to dismiss Dr. Dobyns's claim for
attorney's fees, which decreed:
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Final Judgment in
accordance with the Jury Verdict be and is hereby rendered in
favor of Plaintiff, Sally Dobyns, and against Defendant, the
Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System,
in the amount of TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND and NO/100 ($25,
000.00) DOLLARS, together with interest at 6% per annum from
the date service was requested following the judicial demand
until the date of this Final Judgment, as provided in R.S.
13:5112(C), and thereafter at the rate fixed by R.S. 9:3500.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Court Costs
be and are hereby taxed against Defendant, the Board of
Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, and, in
accordance with R.S. 13:5112(A) are hereby set at $11,
In further consideration of Defendant's post-trial Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiffs Claim for Attorney's Fees, argued
on June 12, 2017 by Crystal Bounds for the Plaintiff and
Patrick McIntire for the Defendant, and in accordance with
written reasons issued on July 18, 2017:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Claim for
Attorney's Fees be and is hereby GRANTED, dismissing
Plaintiffs claim for attorney's fees with prejudice, and
with each party to bear their own respective costs on that
Motion, set as $28.00 for Plaintiff and $55.00 for Defendant.
Board filed a motion for new trial or judgment
notwithstanding the verdict ("JNOV") of the
September 18 and 21, 2017 judgments regarding the jury
verdict. Following a hearing, the trial court
denied the Board's motion for new trial or JNOV and
vacated its September 21, 2017 judgment. Thereafter, the
Board filed a motion and order for a suspensive appeal of the
September 18, 2017 judgment regarding the jury verdict.
to Show Cause; Timeliness of Appeal
courts have a duty to examine subject matter jurisdiction
sua sponte, even when the parties do not raise the
issue, and we are obligated to recognize any lack of
jurisdiction if it exists. Quality Envtl. Processes, Inc.
v. Energy Dev. Corp., 2016-0171 (La.App. 1 Cir.
4/12/17), 218 So.3d 1045, 1052-53. After the instant appeal
was lodged, this court issued a rule to show cause ordering
the parties to file briefs discussing why the instant appeal
should not be dismissed because "[i]t appears that
the Motion for [Suspensive] Appeal was filed
untimely." The show cause order was referred to
this merits panel by an interim order dated November 13,
trial court rendered judgment in favor of Dr. Dobyns and
against the Board on September 18, 2017. Louisiana Code of
Civil Procedure article 1974, governing the delay for
applying for a new trial, provides:
The delay for applying for a new trial shall be seven
days, exclusive of legal holidays. The delay for
applying for a new trial commences to run on the day after
the clerk has mailed, or the sheriff has served, the
notice of judgment as required by Article 1913.
1913(A), governing notice of judgment, provides:
Except as otherwise provided by law, notice of the signing of
a final judgment, including a partial final judgment under
Article 1915, is required in all contested cases, and shall
be mailed by the clerk of court to the counsel of record for
each party, and to each party not represented by counsel.
to La. C.C.P. art. 1913(A), notice of the signing of a final
judgment is required in all contested cases and shall be
mailed by the clerk of court to the counsel of record for
each party. Carter v. C & M Freightliner, LLC,
2011-2184 (La.App. 1 Cir. 8/15/12), 97 So.3d 1191, 1194.
Article 1913(D) requires the clerk to file a certificate in
the record showing the ...