Premises Liability in Louisiana: When is an Owner Responsible for an Accident Which Occurs on Property?

Personal injury cases often involve an accident which occurred due to a dangerous condition in property (Ex: a collapsing ceiling in a rental property) which may be hidden. In the alternative, the dangerous condition may be open and obvious to all involved. In Louisiana, there has been an abundance of litigation involving accidents which occur on property owners’ premises.

Louisiana Civil Code art. 2322 provides guidance on this issue:

“The owner of a building is answerable for the damage occasioned by its ruin, when this is caused by neglect to repair it, or when it is the result of a vice or defect in its original construction.”

The article further indicates that such an owner “is answerable for damages only upon a showing that he knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the vice or defect which caused the damage, that the damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care, and that he failed to exercise reasonable care.” (Emphasis added).

Under this article the plaintiff may have to prove the following to build a successful case:

  1. Ownership of the building;

  2. The owner knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should of known of the ruin or defect;

  3. The damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care;

4. Causation.

A finding of negligence on the owner’s behalf is going to be an extremely fact -specific process that will rely on your specific circumstances. Did the owner know of the defect or hazardous condition? Should the owner have known about the hazardous condition? These are all questions which will need to be answered in order to establish a successful personal injury case against an owner of property based on premises liability.

If the property owner has insurance and a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will have a wealth of defenses to utilize and explore in order to minimize or altogether dismiss the plaintiff’s claims. Premises liability cases can be particularly difficult from a plaintiff;s perspective. An immediate consultation with a local lawyer would be a wise decision for anyone injured by a “defect” in a property either hidden or open and obvious.

What Happens When a Divorce Judgment is Obtained by Fraud?

Divorce litigation is often associated with acrimony and emotional turmoil. Families are divided and spouses often are going through extreme stress. This can create an atmosphere where spouses are often acting out and engaging in deceitful behavior. In certain circumstances, spouses may even move to obtain a divorce judgment by fraud or “ill practices” which may involve forgery or misrepresentation of facts. These actions may not only be considered criminal, but there may be extensive civil litigation which results from fraud.

One spouse may realize that they can “cut off” the other spouse from obtaining spousal support. Or, even worse, try to avoid paternity or child support by misrepresenting facts relating to minor children. A judgment of divorce obtained by fraud can have severe financial repercussions for those involved.

For the spouse who has been wrongfully divorced by a Judgment obtained by fraud, there is recourse. Louisiana Code of Civil procedure art. 2002 provides that:

A final judgment shall be annulled if it is rendered:

            (1) Against an incompetent person not represented as required by law.

 (2) Against a defendant who has not been served with process as required by law and who has not waived objection to jurisdiction, or against whom a valid final default judgment has not been taken.

           (3) By a court which does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit.

Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure art. 2004 also provides that:

A.  A final judgment obtained by fraud or ill practices may be annulled.

That being said, if a spouse suspects they have been divorced by fraud, there are some important limitations on bringing an action to annul a Divorce Judgment. First, the action to annul a judgment on these grounds must be brought within one year of the discovery by the spouse. La.C.C. Pro. art. 2004(B). Second, if the spouse engaged in the fraud, he/she may not be able to invalidate the judgment.

Louisiana courts have also acknowledged that annulling a Judgment of Divorce may have catastrophic effects on children and new spouses (who may find themselves in a bigamous marriage). The Louisiana Supreme Court stated in Wilson v. Calvin, 221 La. 451, 59 So.2d 451, 453 (1952) that:

There is a strong public policy against disturbing or declaring invalid a judgment of divorce, especially after a long period of time where the marital status of innocent parties who relied on the validity of that judgment would be disturbed, and more particularly where a decree would render innocent parties guilty of bigamy and cast a cloud on the legitimacy of their children.

If a spouse feels that they have been divorced as a result of fraud, that spouse should seek immediate legal counsel to discuss the available options. Every case is unique and should be evaluated based on its special set of circumstances.