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Templet v. State, Department of Public Safety and Corrections

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 15, 2019

TROY TEMPLET
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA THROUGH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS; LOUISIANA STATE PENITENTIARY; AND SERGEANT JESSIE LOFTON

          APPEALED FROM THE 20th JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT WEST FELICIANIA PARISH, LOUISIANA DOCKET NUMBER 22, 719, DIVISION B HONORABLE WILLIAM G. CARMICHAEL, JUDGE

          Donna U. Grodner Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorney for Plaintiff/Appellant Troy Templet

          Jeff Landry Attorney General and Christopher N. Walters Assistant Attorney General Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant/ Appellee State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McDONALD, and CRAIN, JJ.

          MCDONALD, J.

         A former inmate filed a tort suit against the State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC), for injuries he sustained while in prison. DPSC filed a peremptory exception claiming the former inmate's claims were prescribed. The district court granted the exception and dismissed the suit. The former inmate appeals from the adverse judgment. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand this matter to the district court.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On November 26, 2013, Troy Templet, [1] an inmate housed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, was a member of a crew working on a ferry landing located on prison property. It was raining that day. While the crew was unloading angle iron from a trailer, a piece of the iron struck Mr. Templet, knocking him from the ferry landing into the Mississippi River below. Mr. Templet received a blow to his head and lost consciousness. He was retrieved from the river and received medical treatment for his injuries, which included head, leg, back, and eye injuries.

         Mr. Templet was apparently released from prison in January 2014. On July 5, 2016, Mr. Templet filed this tort suit against DPSC in the 20th Judicial District Court; he later amended his petition to add Sgt. Jessie Lofton, the prison official supervising the work crew at the time of the accident, but Sgt. Lofton is not a party to this appeal. In his petition, Mr. Templet essentially alleged that Sgt. Lofton ordered the work crew to work in unsafe, rainy conditions on the ferry landing, and that DPSC was vicariously liable for his actions; he also claimed DPSC breached its duty to provide a safe workplace when it was foreseeable that an inmate working in the rain with heavy equipment would be injured. Alternatively, Mr. Templet claimed he was repeatedly denied appropriate medical treatment after the accident.

         DPSC ultimately filed a prescription exception, claiming Mr. Templet's tort suit was untimely. According to DPSC, Mr. Templet was injured on November 26, 2013; he filed an administrative remedy procedure (ARP) on December 3, 2013, which suspended the running of prescription on his tort claim; the administrative process was "completed" on July 28, 2014, and prescription again began to run; Mr. Templet had until July 22, 2015 to file his suit; he did not file his suit until July 5, 2016; hence, his suit was prescribed. DPSC filed no evidence documenting any of the dates referenced in its exception. Mr. Templet apparently filed an opposition to DPSC's exception, but such is not in the appellate record. He then filed a "Motion to Supplement," requesting that the court allow him to supplement his opposition with his own affidavit, to which two exhibits were attached: his handwritten ARP dated November 27, 2013, and an unsigned, undated copy of DPSC's purported "First Step Response Form" denying his ARP. The district court signed an order, and Mr. Templet filed the affidavit and attachments into the record.

         In due course, the district court held a hearing on DPSC's prescription exception. Neither party introduced evidence at the hearing nor presented argument supporting their respective positions; the district court orally granted DPSC's prescription exception from the bench without explaining the basis for its ruling. On November 19, 2018, the district court signed a judgment, granting DPSC's exception and dismissing Mr. Templet's suit with prejudice.

         Mr. Templet appeals from the adverse judgment, contending the district court erred in dismissing his suit as prescribed. He argues that his affidavit shows that he timely filed his ARP while in prison, he was released from prison on January 10, 2014, and DPSC did not contact him any time after his release. He contends there is no evidence that DPSC delivered its purported July 28, 2014 denial of his ARP to him, and as such, prescription on his personal injury claim was suspended when he filed suit.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         The Louisiana Corrections Administrative Remedy Procedure Act (CARP), La. R.S. 15:1171-1179, allows DPSC to adopt administrative remedy procedures to address complaints by an offender against DPSC that arise while an offender is in DPSC's custody. See La. R.S. 15:1171A and B. All complaints, including traditional tort claims seeking monetary relief, are subject to administrative procedures. See La. R.S. 15:1172B. An offender shall initiate his administrative remedies for a delictual (tort) action for injury within 90 days from the day the injury is sustained. See La. R.S. 15:1172B(1). Subsequent release from custody does not excuse an offender from exhausting the applicable administrative procedure. See La. R.S. 15: 1171D and ...


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