Judge will hear two motions in slip and fall case against city of New Orleans

Alejandro de los Rios Jun. 22, 2010, 7:23am

Judge Piper Griffin will hear two motions on Friday in a slip in fall case against the city of New Orleans in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

New Orleans residents Frank and Lavinzale Batiste are suing the city of New Orleans, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and SMG Crystal LLC on behalf of Maggie Batiste, who broke her ankle after slipping on uneven steps at a graduation ceremony put on by OPSB and SMG at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.

New Orleans attorney Gregory Merritt filed the original petition for damages in June 2003, which claims Maggie Batiste lost her footing and fell "due to the defective lighting, combined with an unusual step configuration."

The suit claims that the lighting and lack of hand rail "constituted a defect in the premises," which is owned by the city and co-managed by SMG Crystal. The theater was leased to the OPSB for a graduation ceremony.

The suit also claims that Maggie Batiste died of a pulmonary embolism "as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident and/or complications from surgery."

Assistant City Attorney Detrich Herbert is representing the city.

New Orleans attorney Philip Costa is representing the OPSB.

New Orleans attorneys Loretta Mince and Lance McCardle are representing SMG Crystal.

SMG also owns and operates the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Arena.

Seven civil suits have been filed against SMG dating back to May 2009, four of which are premises liability claims.

Detrich filed a motion for summary judgment on June 4 on the grounds "that as a matter of fact, SMG/Crystal LLC had a contractual obligation to obtain from the Orleans Parish School Board evidence of a comprehensive general liability insurance policy naming SMG and the City of New Orleans as additionally insured."

The motion claims that SMG's failure to obtain the policy and failure to obtain proof of the OPSB's insurance constitute a "material breach in their contract."

SMG filed an opposition to the city's motion for summary judgment on June 18, claiming that "the city did not properly trigger its right to sue SMG" by adhering to the "Dispute Resolution" provision or the "Remedies: Termination" provision of the lease agreement between SMG and the city.

SMG claims that the city did not establish a "natural breach" of contract because the city failed to inform SMG about the apparent defects and then allow 60 days for the defect to be corrected.

The second motion brought before Griffin was filed by SMG on May 27, which asks for the production of written expert reports.

SMG cites Louisiana Code for Civil Procedure Article 1425 and asks, "given the impending trial and cut-off dates, SMG is filing this motion to protect its right to obtain written expert reports."

The motion references three experts listed by the plaintiffs – John Slackal, Anne Teachworth and Michael Sperry – whose depositions were taken June 7, 8 and 9, respectively, and states that SMG was entitled to reports in advance of the depositions.

Orleans Parish Case 2003-08461

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