Louisiana Supreme Court Grants Writ Application and Summary Judgment in Personal Injury Case Due to Lack of Sufficient Medical Evidence on Causation

On March 16, 2020, the Louisiana Supreme Court released a short opinion with significant application to personal injury litigation in Louisiana.

Davis v. A Bar and Grill with a Bite d/b/a The Crazy Lobster Bar & Grill

The case, Davis v. A Bar and Grill with a Bite d/b/a The Crazy Lobster Bar & Grill, No. 19- 1928 (La. 3/16/20), stemmed from an underlying incident in which plaintiff, Natalian Davis, ate raw oysters at defendant’s restaurant and began feeling ill shortly after. She alleged that tests conducted several months later showed the presence of E.  coli bacteria in her urine. During discovery, plaintiff’s treating physician was deposed and testified that she could not relate plaintiff’s symptoms to her consumption of raw oysters at defendant’s restaurant and that the E. coli more probably than not originated from plaintiff’s own body.

Defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff opposed citing her own deposition testimony regarding her understanding of the treating physician’s diagnosis. The district court denied the motion, and Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal denied defendant’s subsequent writ application. Defendant then sought review in the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Although defendant requested oral argument, the Court found the issue simple enough to resolve without, also noting that plaintiff did not file a brief. The Court observed that defendant produced evidence indicating that plaintiff’s complaints were not related to her ingestion of oysters at defendant’s restaurant. The burden then shifted to plaintiff to show that she could satisfy her burden of proof at trial. Plaintiff produced no medical testimony in rebuttal, instead relying on her own testimony regarding what she remembered her physicians telling her. The Court noted that this was directly rebutted by the testimony of plaintiff’s own treating physician and granted the writ application, dismissing plaintiff’s suit.

Upshot: Some Medical Testimony on Causation Required for Personal Injury Claims

Although courts are generally instructed not to make credibility determinations on motions for summary judgment, this case supports the broad point that some medical testimony on causation is required to support a claim for personal injuries.