I have provided below a list and very brief description of my Practice Areas. That same list appears on the left side of this page that if clicked, the reader will be taken to an in-depth discussion of each Practice Area.
In this age of frequent litigation, I find it necessary to issue a disclaimer and provide some recommendations at this point.
First, the reader should not consider any part of this website as providing legal advice to anyone. I reproduce many statutes and give numerous examples of how legal disputes arise. But in no event should anyone read any part of this website and conclude that he "knows" the law well enough to prosecute or defend a case.
Second, although my website contains a great deal of information about particular areas of the law in Louisiana, the reader should not assume that all of it is accurate at any given time. Although I will do my best to update the information on a regular basis, the law may change from day to day - whether by the passage of statutes by the Louisiana Legislature, or the rendering of opinions by appellate courts.
Third, a major goal of my website is to "educate" the layman about various issues that arise in every day life. But this website is not a substitute for sitting down with an attorney, disclosing to that attorney all of the facts of your case, and then discussing with that attorney the legal options you have available to you. Just as a law student should not be able to sue his law school professors claiming he was inadequately instructed if he fails the bar exam, the reader of this website must not read it and rely on only it to determine if he has a valid claim.
Finally, and although this may sound self-serving, please read it as me advising you to seek legal advice from any attorney, and not just me: Always consult an attorney before concluding that you do not have good grounds for a suit, and do so as soon after the "event" occurs that you claim injured or damaged you in some way. Time periods (called "statutes of limitation" in other states - "prescriptive periods" in this state) will begin to run as soon as certain events occur, depending on the type of case. If you do not timely and properly act as some statutes command, you may be forever precluded from filing suit against the party you claim injured you.
People usually consult a family law attorney when, unfortunately, the family has deteriorated to the point where the spouses have decided to end their marriage. My goal is to help my client navigate the various pitfalls that a spouse can fall prey to because of either a misunderstanding of the law or simply emotion. No one looks forward to being an adversary of someone to whom they have been married for what may have been many years, especially if they have children together. But my job as your attorney will include ensuring that your and your children's rights are protected, and that you receive what the law entitles you to receive when it is time to divide the community assets and debts.
My experience in this field covers all aspects of the laws governing the family relationship - divorce, spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation, community property, adoption, interdiction, curatorship, and any other issues that might arise that affect the family.
Most importantly, I do not limit my practice to only men or only women. I have represented both sides, with my goal being the best representation that client can hope to obtain.
Workers’ Compensation Law - Injuries at Work
The Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act has protected the rights of workers injured on the job since its enactment in 1914. Although it has gone through many changes through the years, its primary goal remains to ensure that workers, who are injured in an accident that arises out of and occurs during the course of their employment, receive compensation for the injuries they sustain in their accident.
Workers injured at work do not receive the same types of damages as people injured in non-workplace accidents. Instead, the law makes sure that those workers receive some measure of compensation during their recovery and that their medical expenses are paid.
Like non-workplace accidents, the time period within which to sue for workers' compensation benefits is generally one year from the accident date. Nevertheless, many other prescribed time periods are relevant when an on-the-job injury occurs. Also, a separate, shorter time period to sue is reserved for workers who contract an illness or disease while at work. Do not waste time before consulting an attorney after your injury or illness or disease. It is much better to be told, before your time limit to sue expired, that you did not have a valid claim, rather than be told you have an excellent case but you waited too long to file a claim.
I have represented individuals with claims against their employer, and I have defended employers as large as Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (where I handled every workers' compensation case for eight years) and Fruit of the Loom (which employed over 5000 employees when it operated at full capacity in Louisiana before moving).
Employers need to provide medical care and begin paying compensation if their injured or ill employees require such care and are missing time from work. Employees need to understand that an employer has specific duties owed to their employees as soon as an accident occurs, and that penalties and attorney's fees often attach if those duties are not fulfilled in a timely manner.
Tort Law - Injuries Away From Work
Most accidents we hear about occur away from work. The cases the media usually cover are the car accidents where a group of teenagers are injured after a school dance, or where a well-known person in the community is killed in a one-vehicle accident and alcohol is thought to have been the cause. But people are injured in many other ways about which we never see nor hear unless we happen to be the victim or the victim is a relative or friend.
Every day, people are injured going about their daily tasks - a slip and fall while shopping at a supermarket, cutting a hand or leg while using a lawnmower or weedeater, being bitten by a dog while taking a daily walk after work, or falling off a ladder while helping a neighbor fix his roof.
In many cases, no one is at fault - accidents do happen without anyone to blame. But in those cases where negligence causes an injury, responsibility attaches. And the basic tenet of personal injury law in Louisiana goes back several hundred years, and is reflected in our Civil Code today:
"Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it."
For the injured person, I can point out your chances of prevailing against the person who caused your injuries and explain the damages to which you might be entitled. For the person who is accused of negligently causing an accident, I can defend you by looking at every step you took to avoid an accident and at every step the injured person could have done to protect himself and avoid the accident.
"Employment Law" covers the entire relationship between an employer and a prospective or current employee, beginning with the interview and ending with the termination of the employee’s employment.
Employees are probably afforded more legal protection than any other group of citizens in the United States. Federal and state laws regulate interviews, medical examinations, hiring, the workplace, treatment of employees on the job, employee pay, and the manner in which employees may be terminated. Those laws closely govern an employer’s conduct toward potential and current employees with respect to their race, religion, age, sex, pay, and disability. Some laws that lay people may have heard or be familiar with fall under the category of "Employment Law": Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Fair Labor Standards Act - these are just a few.
Successful employees often win damages in the form of lost wages (past and future), penalties, and attorney’s fees.
My representation has been and continues to be of both employers and employees. From an employer’s standpoint, I can meet with the Human Resources Department and counsel them on how to avoid suits before that Department begins interviewing. Representing an employee, I can analyze every action taken with respect to the employee and point out what I believe to be any violation of that employee’s rights.
When people hear the phrases "commercial law" and "commercial litigation", they often think of large corporations - such as IBM or Apple or GM - involved in large-scale disputes that usually take years to resolve after spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Practice Area I call "Obligations Law" does, indeed, apply to such disputes. But Obligations Law also applies to the average citizen who embarks on the dream of starting his or her own business, to the person who buys an automobile that turns out to be defective, to a small business owner who sells products or provides services - often on credit - and finds himself after several months being owed a small fortune by the buyers, and finally to people who enter into leases of homes, buildings, and farmland.
I have represented small business owners who, in starting a new business, need to be sure they have done everything the law requires of them before opening day. I have represented business owners who have decided they want to sell their business but who do not know how to value that business and how to complete the sale. I have represented landowners who purchased land but who did not understand what was sold to them along with that land. And I have represented lessors and lessees (called landlords and tenants in other states) who enter leases where neither side fully understandood the obligations they owed to one another.
Suppose you lease a home or an apartment to an offshore worker who timely pays his rent by check, but the check bounces while he is working his usual 21 days on/7 days off shift. Can you evict that worker even though you are unable to personally serve him an eviction notice? What if you are the worker and the bank erred in crediting your account and your check should have cleared for payment to your landlord. Will you, as the tenant, have the right to fight the proposed eviction based on the fault of a third-party, as well as the fact that you were never personally served an eviction notice? All of these questions are based on obligations the law imposes on people who contract with one another.
Obligations Law involves the preparation and review of contracts that will bind two parties or businesses with respect to their future relationship. It involves the preparation and review of sale documents where the parties need to be assured of what is being bought and sold. It involves leases where, to avoid litigation, both parties to the lease must understand their respective obligations owed to each other. And it can involve something as simple as one person loaning money to another with the borrower promising to repay the loan, but that loan is never repaid.
My representation in this area is twofold: to advise parties in an attempt to prevent or lessen the chance of future litigation, and to represent parties where a dispute has arisen and neither side is willing to "budge" from their respective positions.
Just the phrase "property law" causes most people to think of a subject that is not only boring, but has nothing to do with them. Yet few people realize how often their own property rights are affected, sometimes several times a year. And if you own land with neighbors who are building or planting near your mutual property line, it can be a matter of just a few months until you realize just how much you can be affected by what someone does with their own land. The effects can range from the amount of leaves and pine cones falling onto your yard from your neighbor's trees, to the runoff of water from your neighbor's newly built carport that results in an ever growing "pond" on your side of the boundary. Suddenly, "property law" is no longer boring when a neighbor's use of his property begins to affect your enjoyment of your own property.
Suppose a person purchases a piece of property and his only path to the nearest road lies across land owned by someone else. Does that buyer have the right to cross his neighbor’s land to gain access to that road? How does the buyer establish a right to cross his neighbor’s land to go to and from that road? If you own the land surrounding the "land locked" tract, how do you protect your rights as the land-locked owner travels across your property every day to reach the nearest road?
What if you and your neighbor have owned adjacent property for years and then one day, your neighbor decides to erect a fence between his property and yours. As he is erecting his fence, however, you notice that your neighbor has placed the fence beyond the "line" onto property that you not only consider your property, but also property that you have kept up for years. What do you do? What happens if your neighbor, in good faith (meaning, he thought the line he chose was really the property line), builds the fence and it remains for years before you decide to complained - do you have an unlimited amount of time to file suit to establish the correct boundary between the properties and to move the fence? Will the fact that you suspected the fence encroached on your land at the outset, but intentionally kept quiet until the fence was finished, change the outcome of the case?
Successions and Donations Law
Louisiana has, in my opinion, always been at the forefront of protecting the rights of descendants. For hundreds of years, Louisiana has maintained the principle known as "forced heirship": although a man may own his property, his also a caretaker of that property and has an obligation to pass down to certain classes of descendants at least some part of that property (unless they have been disinherited). This principle is so ingrained in Louisiana successions law that it is codified in Louisiana's Civil Code and protected in its Constitution.
At one time, Louisiana had as many as five different types of wills recognized as valid. Today, we have only two. Many Louisiana residents think that they need a will. I can show a potential client that if he wants to leave all of his property to his children equally, with the understanding that his portion of the community property may be used by his surviving spouse so long as she lives and does not remarry, then a will is not needed. Louisiana's succession laws will accomplish that automatically. I won't counsel a client to prepare a will that will accomplish nothing more than what the law will already accomplish without a will.
In addition, many people would like to leave their property at their death with "instructions" on how the person inheriting the property should use it. Louisiana's succession laws prohibit this. To "go around" this prohibition, an attorney can establish what is commonly called a "testamentary trust". In that scenario, the current property owner - via a will - establishes a trust, names a trustee (often a relative or close friend), and donates his assets upon his death to the trust with instructions to the trustee on how those assets may be doled out as time passes after the owner's death.
I can also explain and show you how the laws of donations between the living work. People often want to "give" property to relatives and friends before they die. If a person wants to donate his ownership interest in property to a certain person upon the donor's death, that donation will be in the form of a will. But the form of a donation between living people will vary depending on the items donated. If someone wants to donate a piece of immovable property, a certain written form must be used, and that written donation must be recorded in the parish where the property is located in order for that donation to be binding on third parties. On the other hand, if someone wants to donate a movable, such as a vehicle, a trailer, a horse, or jewelry, the donation is considered valid and complete if the donor simply gives that movable to the donee with the intent of giving it away, and the donee takes possession of that movable with the intent of accepting it.
These are just a few common scenarios that people encounter every day. Each side thinks the law is on their side, and they each may appear to have valid arguments on their face.
My experience with these issues enables me to represent either side. This does not mean that I can win, no matter whom I represent. One side will usually win - it is rare that the judge or jury will order what might be considered a legal "tie". But, my study and knowledge of Louisiana’s laws in these practice areas enable me to give sound advice to whomever I represent - and that advice will hopefully prevent a suit and result in an amicable solution that both parties can live with before incurring substantial attorney fees and court costs.