Today is the day when we will learn whether the Governor of Louisiana will enter the 2016 presidential race. That reminds us of Louisiana’s rather colorful collection of politicians, including Huey Long and Edwin Edwards. You probably already know that Louisiana boasts an unrivaled array of colorful characters in every field of endeavor, from chefs (Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme), sports (Peyton Manning, Pistol Pete Maravich), music (Louis Armstrong, Dr. John – and about a million others), and philosophy (Huey Newton, Uncle Si). Louisiana has added its own spicy flavor to the law, as well. If you asked drug and device defense lawyers who is the single most flamboyant, unpredictable plaintiff lawyer in the land, we bet a certain lawyer from Louisiana would garner the most votes. Pelican State courts have also given us some of the highest highs and lowest lows in product liability litigation.
Examples of both such highs and such lows reside in the recent case of Ezeb v. Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, No. 2015-C-0204 (Ct. App, 4th Cir. La June 17, 2015). What we have in the Ezeb case is one of the very worst summary judgment rulings by a court we have ever seen, ultimately reversed by an eminently sensible appellate court decision. Usually when we talk about a bad summary judgment decision, we are bemoaning a court’s failure to grant some virtuous defendant a ruling that dismisses some ill-conceived case. But in Ezeb the trial court granted partial summary judgment to a plaintiff on grounds so wrong-headed as to beggar belief.
While we supply the requisite procedural background, you might want to supply appropriate background music by a Louisiana legend – perhaps the smooth stylings of Harry Connick, Jr., Gino Delafose, or Lil Wayne. In or about 1990, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against numerous doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies claiming that they played a role in overdosing him with a drug and thereby causing him various injuries. He sued the medical professionals for negligence, and sued the drug manufacturer under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for failing to warn of the side effects of the medication. One of the defendants was Caremark, the company that employed a treating nurse at the medical center where the plaintiff was administered the medicine. The plaintiff had alleged that the nurse played some role in the overdose. In 2008 (so now we are 18 years after the case was initiated), Caremark filed a motion for summary judgment. Reading between the lines of the decision, it appears that Caremark argued that there was no evidence establishing that its nurse was responsible for the dosing decision. Caremark’s summary judgment motion was unopposed, and the court, not surprisingly, granted the motion. All of the plaintiff’s claims against Caremark were dismissed with prejudice.