Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
Normand v. Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the lower courts correctly ruled an online marketplace was obligated as a "dealer" under La. R.S. 47:301(4)(l) and/or by contract to collect sales tax on the property sold by third party retailers through the marketplace’s website. Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC (“Wal-Mart.com”) operated an online marketplace at which website visitors could buy products from Wal-Mart.com or third party retailers. From 2009 through 2015, Wal-Mart.com reported its online sales in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana of its products and remitted the required sales tax to the Louisiana Department of Revenue and ex-officio tax collector, then Sheriff Newell Normand (Tax Collector). The reported sales amount did not include proceeds from online sales made by third party retailers through Wal-Mart.com’s marketplace. Following an attempted audit for this period, Tax Collector filed a “Rule for Taxes” alleging Wal-Mart.com “engaged in the business of selling, and sold tangible personal property at retail as a dealer in the Parish of Jefferson,” but had “failed to collect, and remit . . . local sales taxes from its customers for transactions subject to Jefferson Parish sales taxation.” In addition, Tax Collector alleged that an audit of Wal-Mart.com’s sales transactions was attempted, but Wal-Mart.com “refused to provide [Tax Collector] with complete information and records” of Jefferson Parish sales transactions, particularly, those conducted on behalf of third party retailers. In connection with online marketplace sales by third party retailers, Tax Collector sought an estimated $1,896,882.15 in unpaid sales tax, interest, penalties, audit fees, and attorney fees. The Supreme Court determined an online marketplace was not a “dealer” under La. R.S. 47:301(4)(l) for sales made by third party retailers through its website and because the online marketplace did not contractually assume the statutory obligation of the actual dealers (the third party retailers), the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the court of appeal were reversed and vacated. View "Normand v. Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC" on Justia Law
West Feliciana Parish Government v. Louisiana
Plaintiffs were the Plaquemines Parish Council and the St. James Parish School Board, each being designated as the single collector for sales and use taxes levied by all taxing authorities within their respective parishes. Plaintiffs filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Request for Preliminary and Permanent Injunction, and supplementing and amending petitions thereto, alleging that La.R.S. 47:337.102(I) violated La.Const. art. VI, section 29 and La.Const. art. VII, section 3. In 2010, Plaquemines Parish entered into an Agreement to Collect Local Taxes Due on the Sale or Use of Motor Vehicles and Factory Built Homes (“the agreement”) with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (“the Department”) on behalf of the Department and the Vehicle Commissioner (“OMV”) for the collection of sales and use taxes levied in the parish. The agreement contains a provision allowing OMV to collect the identified sales and use taxes and to retain 1% of the taxes levied. St. James Parish also entered into an agreement with OMV for the collection of sales and use taxes levied in the parish. Their agreement contains the identical provision allowing OMV to collect the sales and use taxes and to retain 1% of the taxes levied as payment for its collection duties. After de novo review, the Louisiana Supreme Court concurred that La.R.S. 47:337.102(I) was unconstitutional. Consequently, the judgment of the district court declaring La.R.S. 47:337.102(I) unconstitutional and permanently enjoining the State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles from withholding locally levied sales and use taxes under the authority of La.R.S. 47:337.102(I) and from disbursing any funds withheld to the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board was affirmed. View "West Feliciana Parish Government v. Louisiana" on Justia Law
LeBlanc Marine, L.L.C. vs. Louisiana, Division of Administration, Office of Facility Planning and Control
This dispute arose out of a project known as Phase III Levee Repairs at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge located in Grand Chenier, Louisiana (“the Project”). In May 2017, the State, through the Division of Administration, Office of Facility Planning and Control (“State”) issued an advertisement for bids for the Project. Following the close of bidding, LeBlanc Marine, L.L.C. (“LeBlanc”) was the apparent low bidder on the Project, and Southern Delta Construction, L.L.C. (“Southern Delta”) was the apparent second low bidder. However, on September 20, 2017, the State informed LeBlanc that its bid was rejected because it failed to comply with Section 5.1.9 of the instructions to bidders. Specifically, the State claimed LeBlanc failed to submit written evidence of the authority of the person signing the bid as set forth in the instructions. The State thereafter determined Southern Delta was the lowest responsive bidder and awarded the contract for the Project to Southern Delta. LeBlanc filed a petition for injunctive and declaratory relief, seeking to enjoin the State from awarding the contract to Southern Delta, or alternatively, a declaration that any contract entered into by the State and Southern Delta was null and void. LeBlanc’s petition alleged that Southern Delta’s bid was also non-responsive because it violated Section 5.1.9 of the instructions to bidders by failing to include written evidence proving that the person who signed the bid had the authority to sign and submit the bid on Southern Delta’s behalf. In reasons for judgment, the district court found that the State was bound by the more restrictive requirements set forth in its instructions to bidders than what was provided in La. Rev. Stat. 38:2212(B)(5). The Louisiana Supreme Court found the district court erred in granting declaratory and injunctive relief in favor of LeBlanc based on a finding the State was bound by the more restrictive requirements set forth in its instructions to bidders. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of court of appeal which affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "LeBlanc Marine, L.L.C. vs. Louisiana, Division of Administration, Office of Facility Planning and Control" on Justia Law
Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
In a workers’ compensation matter, the Louisiana Supreme Court was presented with the question of whether an employee’s motion to compel her employer to choose a pharmacy other than the pharmacy at its retail stores to fill her prescriptions was premature in the absence of any claim that she has not been furnished proper medical attention or that there have been delays or deficiencies in filling prescriptions. Elizabeth Soileau filed a disputed claim for workers’ compensation benefits alleging she injured her right arm and hand in the course and scope of her employment with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”). Pursuant to a 2012 consent judgment, Soileau received medical treatment, including prescriptions, some of which she filled at a Wal-Mart pharmacy. In 2016, Soileau obtained a judgment against Wal-Mart ordering that she was entitled to receive certain prescriptions, as prescribed by her physician. Soileau began filling her prescriptions at Falcon Pharmacy. Following the Louisiana Supreme Court's opinion in Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, 225 So.3d 1020, which held the choice of pharmacy belonged to the employer, Wal-Mart notified Soileau in writing that she could only use “a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy” for her future prescriptions needs. Wal-Mart further advised Soileau it would not issue reimbursement for medications dispensed to Wal-Mart workers’ compensation patients from any pharmacy other than a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy. Soileau moved to compel, arguing she “should not be forced to obtain medications from her employer directly and cannot go without her medication.” The motion proceeded to a hearing before the Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”). At the hearing, Soileau testified that in September 2017 (after she filed her motion), Wal-Mart’s pharmacy denied two of her workers’ compensation prescriptions, but admitted she had no written documentation of the denial. The workers’ compensation judge explained that in the event Soileau experienced any delays or deficiencies in the filling of her prescriptions, she “has a remedy under Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1201E.” Soileau appealed. A divided panel of the court of appeal reversed, finding that a conflict of interest would be created if Wal-Mart were permitted to designate its own pharmacy as the only pharmacy Soileau could use for her workers’ compensation prescriptions. The Supreme Court found the matter was indeed premature and did not present a justiciable controversy. It therefore vacated the judgment of the court of appeal. View "Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Bias v. Louisiana Physical Therapy Board
The Louisiana Physical Therapy Board (“Board”) was established under the provisions of La. R.S. 37:2403, requiring that the Board shall consist of seven members appointed by the governor and further provided at least one member shall be a licensed physician. The underlying litigation arose when the Board filed an administrative complaint against physical therapist Kevin Bias after he was arrested for an alleged aggravated assault while driving. The matter proceeded to a hearing. At the hearing, the Board was composed of five members. The acting chairperson introduced the board members and asked for objections to the makeup of the panel. Counsel for Bias responded there were none. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board suspended Bias’s physical therapy license with conditions for reinstatement. Bias appealed the Board’s decision to the district court, and when unsuccessful there, appealed to the court of appeals. The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Board had authority to conduct disciplinary proceedings when there was a vacancy in its statutorily-mandated composition. The Supreme Court found the court of appeal erred in finding the board’s actions were invalid because it was not lawfully constituted at the time of its actions in this case. View "Bias v. Louisiana Physical Therapy Board" on Justia Law
Boothe v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development
On December 11, 2008, the Baton Rouge area experienced a snowstorm. The storm was of sufficient magnitude to result in the issuance of a winter weather advisory and closure of area schools. The schools reopened the next day as the weather improved. At approximately 8:00 a.m. on the morning of December 12, Sherry Boothe was operating her vehicle eastbound on Greenwell Springs Road, after bringing her daughter to school. As Boothe crossed the Comite River Bridge to return home, she lost control of her vehicle. Her vehicle crossed the median, flipped, and came to rest in the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. According to Boothe, after exiting her vehicle, she believed she had hit either ice or oil because the road was slippery. Boothe ultimately sued the Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”), seeking personal injury damages arising from the accident, for not adequately sanding the bridge following the snowstorm. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the uncontroverted evidence in the record revealed there was ice on the roadway at the time of the accident, and DOTD failed to take proper measures to address this condition. This evidence pointed "so strongly in favor of the moving party that reasonable persons could not reach different conclusions." Accordingly, the Court found the district court did not err in granting the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of plaintiffs. View "Boothe v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development" on Justia Law
Palowsky v. Campbell et al.
Plaintiffs filed suit against certain judges of the Fourth Judicial District Court (Louisiana) as well as a law clerk employed by that court. Essentially, plaintiffs alleged the law clerk “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld, and/or improperly ‘handled’ court documents” in earlier litigation involving plaintiffs, and that the judges either aided or concealed these actions. The judges and law clerk filed motions to strike certain allegations from plaintiff’s petition and also filed exceptions of no cause of action. The district court granted the motions to strike and granted the exceptions of no cause of action. On appeal, a divided en banc panel of the court of appeal reversed the motions to strike in part. The court also reversed the granting of the exception of no cause of action as to the law clerk, but affirmed the granting of the exception of no cause of action as to the judges, finding they were entitled to absolute judicial immunity. Considering the "highly unusual and specific facts" of this case, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the court of appeal erred in finding the judges were entitled to absolute judicial immunity. Accepting the facts as alleged in the petition as true for purposes of the exception of no cause of action, the Supreme Court found plaintiff’s allegations regarding the judges’ supervision and investigation of the law clerk’s activities arose in the context of the judges’ administrative functions, rather than in the course of their judicial or adjudicative capacities. Therefore, accepting on the well-pleaded allegations of plaintiff’s petition, the Supreme Court found absolute judicial immunity would not apply, and plaintiff was able to state a cause of action against the judges. View "Palowsky v. Campbell et al." on Justia Law
Louisiana ex rel. Caldwell v. Molina Healthcare, Inc.
Louisiana, represented by its Attorney General, filed this lawsuit in 2014 against defendants, Molina Healthcare, Inc., Molina Information Systems, L.L.C. d/b/a Molina Medicaid Solutions, and Unisys Corporation. As described in the state’s petition, “[o]ver the last thirty (“30”) years, the Defendants have been the fiscal agent responsible for processing Louisiana’s Medical pharmacy provider reimbursement claims.” Pursuant to a contract to which the state itself was allegedly a party, “the Defendants assumed operational liability” of a “customizable” computerized system known as the Louisiana Medicare Management Information System (“LMMIS”). As part of defendants’ duties, they were “responsible for the operation and maintenance of LMMIS, as well as creating and implementing design changes to the LMMIS that comply with State and federal mandates.” The crux of the state’s allegations in this lawsuit is that Unisys caused the Louisiana Department of Health (“LDH”) to overpay Medicaid pharmacy providers through Unisys’ improper operation and management of LMMIS. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review in this case to review the correctness of the appellate court’s ruling, sustaining an exception of no right of action for the Attorney General’s lawsuit against the defendants. By statute, the Louisiana Department of Health had the capacity to sue and be sued for programs that it administered, such as Medicaid. However, because the Louisiana Department of Health delegated–and defendants allegedly contractually accepted–some of the administrative functions of the state’s Medicaid program, the Supreme Court found the Attorney General had the capacity, and hence a right of action, to prosecute this lawsuit. View "Louisiana ex rel. Caldwell v. Molina Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law
Ulrich v. Robinson
Plaintiffs Justin and Gwen Ulrich and Raymond and Pam Alleman purchased and installed residential solar systems with the expectation of receiving an income tax credit of up to $12,500 pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. 47:6030(B)(1). In 2016, when plaintiffs filed their Louisiana income tax returns for the 2015 tax year, asserting entitlement to the solar electric system tax credits under La. Rev. Stat. 47:6030, the tax credits were denied or reduced by the Department of Revenue, citing Acts 2015, No. 131, which limited the maximum amount of solar tax credits to be granted by the Department of Revenue to $25,000,000. In letters sent by the Department of Revenue to plaintiffs in August 2016, they were informed that Act 131 of the 2015 Regular Session had amended La. Rev. Stat. 47:6030 “to establish the maximum amount of solar tax credits that may be granted;” that “[f]or fiscal years 2015-2016 and 2016- 2017, the cap limit was $10,000,000 per year;” that “[t]he credits are required to be granted based on a first-come, first served basis;” and that the “cap limits were met prior to [their] claim being filed.” This appeal challenged the district court’s judgment declaring unconstitutional 2015 La. Acts, No. 131, section 1, which amended La. Rev. Stat. 47:6030 by placing a cap on the total amount of solar electric system income tax credits available to Louisiana taxpayers, because it retroactively deprived plaintiffs of a vested property right and substantially impaired the obligations of private contracts. The district court also implicitly found the plaintiffs had standing to bring the constitutional claim and that a justiciable controversy existed because the constitutional issue was not moot. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the district court erred in overruling the Department of Revenue’s peremptory exception of mootness, and reversed. View "Ulrich v. Robinson" on Justia Law
Louisiana In the Interest of A.L.D. & L.S.D.
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted a writ in this termination of parental rights case to determine if the court of appeal erred in reversing a district court judgment terminating the parental rights of the father, C.K.D. The child was removed from his mother's care after testing positive for methamphetamines. The Department of Children and Family Services developed a case plan for the parents; as relating to C.K.D., the plan required him, among other things, to remain drug free, maintain a safe and stable home that met the basic needs of his children, complete random drug screens, and obtain a legal source of income to support his children. The plan was amended to require that C.K.D. complete parenting classes, anger management, and mental health counseling and to pay $25/month per child to DCFS for the support of his children. DCFS initially placed the children with C.K.D.’s mother, D.D. Some time later, DCFS received reports that C.K.D. was improperly living with D.D., and that D.D. was possibly using drugs while caring for the children. C.K.D., D.D., and both children tested positive for drugs. As a result, DCFS removed the children from D.D.’s home and placed them in non-relative foster care with G.B. Shortly thereafter, DCFS petitioned to terminate both parents' parental rights. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court found no reversible error in the district court’s ruling that termination was supported by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the best interests of the children. View "Louisiana In the Interest of A.L.D. & L.S.D." on Justia Law