The Disguised Prematurity Exception

In Christus Health Southwest Louisiana d/b/a Christus St. Patrick Hospital v. All About You Home Healthcare, Inc., et al., Relators had filed a motion to continue/stay trial, which was set for January 23, 2017, on January 13, 2017.  Relators urged that the exact issue presented by the plaintiff seeking recovery and penalties and attorneys’ fees for an alleged arbitrary and capricious handling of a workers’ compensation claim was premature.  Their basis was that the claim was paid pursuant to a settlement agreement rendered in a related class action suit that was currently pending before the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit of Louisiana (“Third Circuit”).  The trial court denied Relators’ motion to continue/stay the January 23, 2017 trial and Relators filed a writ with the Third Circuit.

Relators argued that until the suspensive appeal of the ruling in the related class action was resolved, any decision by the lower courts such as the one presented to the Third Circuit in the present matter, was premature and/or could run the risk of being inconsistent with the related class action.  Plaintiff argued in opposition that an indefinite stay would deprive it of its constitutionally protected right of access to the courts.  It also urged that the Relators’ motion for a continuance/stay was nothing more than a late-filed exception of prematurity and that the writ was a prematurity exception in disguise.

The Third Circuit held that Relators did not show an abuse of discretion and did not assert a prematurity exception.  They asserted a defense of res judicata, but no court had made a ruling thereon.  In addition, Relators were free to assert their peremptory exception of res judicata.  The Third Circuit denied the writ and the request for stay.