NEW ORLEANS—A Loyola law professor says the couple suing the Lafourche Parish government over allegations that poor water infrastructure made it difficulty to extinguish a fire that destroyed their home and two others will face an uphill battle in their suit against the government, which has immunity set in place.
The alleged arsonist, on the other hand, will still be "on the hook," so to speak, according to the professor.
Lisa and Joey Plaisance are suing the parish, saying the water main was not large enough for the fire department to quickly put out the fire, according to local news reports. They are reportedly seeking damages of more than $110,000. That includes $45,000 in damages from the loss of their home and $67,182.72 for the loss of property within the home, the reports indicated. The couple is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages from mental anguish, suffering and temporary living expenses.
Dane S. Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said it's unlikely the couple will win the case against the parish.
"There are various immunities built into these parish governments that have existed for more than 100 years that essentially protect this public entity from litigation in this way," Ciolino said. "You generally can't sue for these kinds of things, given these immunities."
Ciolino said the suit was bold, but unusual.
"I think it's kind of odd that they think they will prevail against the parish in a case like this," he said. "It is very hard to overcome the immunity that exists. It has probably been done, but only if there was proven to be intentional gross negligence, but I don't think that's going to work in this kind of case."
The case against the alleged arsonist, 32-year-old Treiston Pierron, is a much easier path to victory for the plaintiffs, Ciolino said.
"But does he have any assets?,"Ciolino asked. "They might find it difficult after the judgment, going about trying to collect from the guy."
Pierron was arrested in August and faces charges of aggravated arson, simple arson, assisting escape and contempt of court. He recently filed his own lawsuit against the parish over allegations that he was forced to drink toilet water because of a lack of running water in his jail cell. He is seeking damages of $3.5 million, among other things.