Technicalities doom Livingston Parish flooding case

By Dawn Geske | Apr 22, 2018

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LIVINGSTON – A Denham Springs homeowner had his 2016 flooding case against the Livingston Parish government and the Livingston Parish Gravity Drainage District No. 1 dismissed on a number of technicalities. 

The homeowner, William Ballard, drafted a petition on behalf of himself and his neighbors after a drainage culvert he alleged was too small caused flooding to his and other homes. Ballard, who had difficulties finding an attorney to represent him in the lawsuit, took matters into his own hands and drafted the petition to the court, making some errors along the way. 

Lawyers for Livingston Parish argued that Ballard acted as an unlicensed attorney by representing his neighbors. While Ballard was within his right to file his own petition, he could not legally represent his neighbors. Legal counsel also pointed out that Ballard made errors by listing the wrong party on the citation and serving the wrong individuals. 

Ballard, however, was able to secure a lawyer in October. He was able to correct the mishaps made during his initial petition with the help of Baton Rouge attorney Mike Breinin. 

“I really cannot say as to why other counsel would not take the case,” Breinin told the Louisiana Record. “Mr. Ballard was forced to file it himself, which is where the trouble began since he cannot represent any other parties, aside from himself. If I were to speculate, I would say it was a combination of a difficult underlying case and a reluctance to sue the parish and parish entities.”

Despite Ballard's efforts, more technicalities were brought to light as counsel pointed out that he had signed his name on a service document and put his own address on the envelope. Breinin argued that a 2014 rule allows for service errors to be corrected. 

“Dismissals on improper service and citation are hyper-technical, especially considering the fact that service can be waived by the defendants, and there was a new law enacted in 2014 to essentially 'stop the clock' when service is requested and give a court discretion to permit plaintiffs to correct any errors,” Brenin said. “The court refused to do so.”

The case was eventually dismissed by a 21st Judicial District judge based on the technicalities brought up by Livingston Parish’s attorneys. Ballard plans to appeal his case. 

“Mr. Ballard had an excellent case, as evidenced by the fact that the parish has removed the insufficient drainage that caused the flooding and is building a new bridge on Dunn Road,” Brenin said. “I believe that had we prevailed, despite what counsel for the defendants have stated, a settlement would have been reached with Mr. Ballard.”

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