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Dowdle v. State

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 15, 2019

SHANNON S. DOWDLE
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE, RECREATION, AND TOURISM, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT

          APPEAL FROM THE ELEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF SABINE, No. 66, 238 HONORABLE STEPHEN B. BEASLEY, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Jeff Landry, Attorney General State of Louisiana Leisa B. Lawson, Assistant Attorney General Louisiana Department of Justice Attorneys for Appellee: State of Louisiana Through the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and The Department of Transportation and Development

          Robert L. Beck, III W. Jay Luneau Matthew T. Seaton Luneau & Beck, LLC Attorneys for Appellant: Shannon S. Dowdle

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy H. Ezell and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.

          SYLVIA R. COOKS JUDGE

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Shannon S. Dowdle (Shannon) was allegedly injured while riding her bicycle in Hodges Gardens State Park (Hodges Gardens) on August 21, 2013. Shannon was accompanied by her husband, Kevin Dowdle (Kevin), and her brother. Kevin was not present when the accident occurred, and no one reported the accident to park officials until September 17, 2013, when Kevin filed a written report chronicling the alleged accident. The couple maintains annual passes for admission to Hodges Gardens and are frequent users of the park for running and cycling. Shannon filed suit on August 20, 2014, alleging she was seriously injured when she allegedly "attempted to stop to avoid a large pot-hole situated directly in her lane of travel" on a roadway inside Hodges Gardens. She further alleges in her petition the State "in the exercise of reasonable care knew or should have known about" the "defective condition of the roadway." Shannon set forth in her petition allegations asserting that the alleged bicycle accident was "caused by the fault and negligence of defendant . . . and/or through the acts and/or omissions [of] one or more of its employees and/or agents." The petition enumerates five alleged acts of negligence identified as:

a) Failing to maintain a roadway;
b) Failing to warn park patrons about unreasonably dangerous defects in the roadway about which it knew or should have known;
c) Allowing park patrons to utilize a roadway that it knew or should have known was unreasonably dangerous;
d) Failing to warn park patrons of or cordon off a roadway that it knew or should have known was unreasonably dangerous; and
e) Failing to repair defects about which it knew or should have known.

         The State answered the petition on February 19, 2015, denying the allegations and asserting an affirmative defense based on La.R.S. 9:2795, [1] which provides a recreational use immunity for state parks such as Hodges Gardens. On August 28, 2017, the State filed a motion for summary judgment which was heard on November 28, 2018. The trial court granted the State's motion for summary judgment dismissing all of Shannon's claims with prejudice. Shannon appeals asserting there are unresolved genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment.

         ANALYSIS

Appellate courts review summary judgments de novo, using the same analysis as the trial court in deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate. Smith v. Our Lady of the Lake Hosp., Inc., 93-2512 (La.7/5/94), 639 So.2d 730. A motion for summary judgment must be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(B). As for the burden of proof, Article 966(C)(2) provides:
The burden of proof remains with the movant. However, if the movant will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the matter that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the movant's burden on the motion does not require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim, action, or defense, but rather to point out to the court that there is an absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense. Thereafter, if the adverse party fails to produce factual support sufficient to establish that he will be able to satisfy his evidentiary burden of proof at trial, there is no genuine issue of material fact.

DeLafosse v. Vill. of Pine Prairie, 08-0693, p. 2 (La.App. 3 Cir. 12/10/08), 998 So.2d 1248, 1250, writ denied, 09-0074 (La. ...


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