Category: Michele DeShazo

Michele DeShazo to speak on panel at NBA’s Seventh Annual Energy Forum

Partner Michele Hale DeShazo will serve as a panelist at the National Bar Association’s Seventh Annual Energy Forum this week. She will speak as a part of the “Gulf Coast Litigation Impacting the Energy Industry” panel on Wednesday, August 1st at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel. See the flyer below for more details about this event.


Dismissal on Prescription Grounds Upheld by Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit in Toxic Tort case

Dismissal on Prescription Grounds Upheld by Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit in Toxic Tort case

By:  Michele DeShazo & Mark Best

On June 27, 2018, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of survival and wrongful death claims on the grounds of prescription (akin to common law’s statute of limitations) in favor of oil company defendants in a toxic tort case in which Kuchler Polk Weiner, LLC (“KPW”) partners, Michele DeShazo and Mark Best, co-tried the Exception for Shell Oil Company, Shell Offshore Inc., SWEPI LP, and ConocoPhillips Company, along with counsel for Chevron.  Our team took the lead on the subsequent appellate briefing, with key assistance provided by KPW associate attorney, Joshua Doguet.  Ms. DeShazo handled oral argument before the Fifth Circuit for Defendants on October 11, 2017.

In Patricia Lennie, et al., v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al., No. 17-CA-204, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, State of Louisiana, Julius Lennie worked cleaning oilfield pipe from 1961 to 1994 in Harvey, Louisiana.  He retired in 1994 and was diagnosed with lung cancer on January 28, 2010, passing away less than one month later.  His heirs failed to file suit for wrongful death and survival damages until 2014, when they sued multiple oil companies and service providers in Jefferson Parish claiming that decedent’s cancer and death were caused by exposure to naturally occurring radioactive materials (“NORM”).

In asserting the Peremptory Exception of Prescription, Defendants argued that decedent’s diagnosis and death constituted constructive notice of Plaintiffs’ claims sufficient to trigger the start of the one-year prescriptive period, which elapsed in 2011 after Mr. Lennie’s death, rendering the 2014 suit untimely.  In an effort to avoid dismissal, Plaintiffs claimed that the doctrine of contra non valentem prevented the running of the prescriptive period, specifically arguing that (1) the oil companies purposefully concealed information the Plaintiffs would have needed to learn of the existence of their causes of action and (2) Plaintiffs could not reasonably have known of their causes of action until 2013, when one heir came across a news article on the internet about NORM.

After a two-day trial on the prescription exception on May 11-12, 2016 before District Judge Michael Mentz of the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court, which saw the introduction of live testimony from eight witnesses, written testimony submitted by designation for an additional fifteen witnesses, and voluminous exhibits, Judge Mentz granted the exception and dismissed Plaintiffs’ case with prejudice.  Following an appeal by Plaintiffs, Fifth Circuit Judge Robert Chaisson authored the unanimous opinion which affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case.

As to alleged concealment by the oil companies, the Court found:

 

[T]he actions of defendants in forming the industry trade group, developing screening methods for NORM, and participating in adoption of regulations by the State of Louisiana, directly contradict any suggestion that defendants were downplaying the significance of NORM in the workplace or were otherwise engaging in concealment of Mr. Lennie’s or his family’s causes of action from them.[1]

 

The opinion then cites to another NORM case defended by Michele DeShazo and Mark Best, which was also won on grounds of prescription, Tenorio v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 14-814 (La. App. 5 Cir. 4/15/15), 170 So.3d 269.  There, the Fifth Circuit affirmed dismissal by holding that a disease diagnosis is sufficient to trigger the running of prescription because it constitutes constructive notice of a claim, i.e., the diagnosis should excite a plaintiff’s attention to inquire into the cause of his disease.  In Lennie, the same court now holds that a diagnosis and death are similarly sufficient to constitute constructive notice to decedent’s heirs of their wrongful death and survival causes of action.  Plaintiffs’ failure to reasonably investigate following decedent’s diagnosis and death was unreasonable such that they could not employ contra non valentem to suspend prescription.

The Lennie Court rejected “any contention that the mere availability of information on the internet, in and of itself, can serve as sufficient constructive knowledge of a plaintiff’s cause of action.”  However, the Fifth Circuit conducted a de novo review of the facts and still arrived at the same conclusion as the trial court—that Plaintiffs’ “failure to make even a rudimentary inquiry into the causes of Mr. Lennie’s illness and death appears unreasonable.”

 

[1] Lennie at 8.

Four KPW Attorneys Named to WEN 2018 Board of Directors

KPW congratulates Michele Hale DeShazo, Kristyn Lambert, Skylar Rudin, and Amber Barlow on their selection to the 2018 Board of Directors for the Women’s Energy Network’s (WEN) South Louisiana Chapter. Michele will serve as President, Kristyn will serve as the New Orleans Program Co-Director and Dinner Auction Co-Chair, Skylar will serve as the New Orleans Special Events Director, and Amber holds the position of Scholarships Chair.

Our 2018 Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

Kuchler Polk Weiner is pleased to announce the following members of our team who have been listed by Super Lawyers Magazine as Louisiana Super Lawyers & Rising Stars for 2018: Deb Kuchler, Steve Larzelere, Michele DeShazo, and Lee Ziffer. In addition, Dawn Tezino has been listed by Super Lawyers Magazine as a Texas Super Lawyer for 2018. Congratulations to you all!

 

Louisiana:

Deborah D. Kuchler

Civil Litigation, Personal Injury – Products, Environmental Litigation
Super Lawyers 2008, 2010–2018

Michele Hale DeShazo

Environmental Litigation, Personal Injury – Products, Civil Litigation
Rising Stars 2012–2018

Lee B. Ziffer

Personal Injury – Products, Personal Injury – General, Environmental Litigation
Rising Stars 2014–2018

Stephen M. Larzelere, Sr.

Transportation/Maritime, Environmental Litigation, General Litigation
Super Lawyers: 2013-2014, 2017-2018

Texas:

Dawn R. Tezino

Personal Injury- Products: Defense, Employment Litigation: Defense, Business/Corporate
Rising Stars 2008-2017
Super Lawyers: 2018

KPW Sponsors DirectWomen’s 2017 Sandra Day O’Connor Board Excellence Award Luncheon

The firm was a proud sponsor of DirectWomen’s 2017 Sandra Day O’Connor Board Excellence Award Luncheon in New York City on October 20, 2017.  Partners, Sarah Iiams and Michele DeShazo, attended on behalf of the firm and were happy to meet such accomplished ladies.  The mission of DirectWomen is to increase the representation of women on corporate boards through identifying leading women lawyers around the country who will improve corporate governance and increase shareholder value.

We are very pleased that ConocoPhillips Company’s Senior Vice President, Legal, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Janet Langford Carrig, was selected as a 2017 DirectWomen Board Institute participant for the October 19-20, 2017 program.  Each year, DirectWomen uses rigorous criteria to identify only the most talented women for the Board Institute training program.  Our firm has been fortunate to view Janet’s extraordinary talents firsthand through our work for ConocoPhillips.  Congratulations, Janet, on this well-deserved honor!

 

Our 2017 LA Super Lawyers & Rising Stars

Kuchler Polk is pleased to announce the following members of our team who have been listed by Super Lawyers Magazine as Texas and Louisiana Super Lawyers & Rising Stars for 2017: Deb Kuchler, Michele DeShazo, Lee Ziffer, and Dawn Tezino. Congratulations to you all!

Deborah D. Kuchler

Civil Litigation, Personal Injury – Products, Environmental Litigation
Selected to Super Lawyers 2008, 2010–2017

Michele Hale DeShazo

Environmental Litigation, Personal Injury – Products, Civil Litigation
Rising Stars 2012–2017

Lee B. Ziffer

Personal Injury – Products, Personal Injury – General, Environmental Litigation
Rising Stars 2014–2017

 Dawn R. Tezino

Employment Litigation, Business/Corporate, Personal Injury – General
Rising Stars: 2008-2017

 

WEN-South Louisiana Announces 2017 Board of Directors

Kuchler Polk is pleased to announce that Michele Hale DeShazo, Amber Barlow, and Skylar Rudin have been selected to serve on the Board of Directors in 2017 for the Women’s Energy Network’s (WEN) South Louisiana Chapter. Michele served as Sponsorship Director in 2016, and will move to the position of Vice President in 2017, while Amber and Skylar will once again serve as the New Orleans Programming Directors and Silent Auction Co-Chairs.

Our 2016 LA Super Lawyers & Rising Stars

Kuchler Polk is pleased to announce the following members of our team who have been listed as Louisiana Super Lawyers & Rising Stars for 2016: Deb Kuchler, Janika Polk, Monique Weiner, Michele DeShazo and Lee Ziffer.

Congratulations to you all!

Below is a list of our most recently selected attorneys and the years in which they have been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine.  Continue reading “Our 2016 LA Super Lawyers & Rising Stars”

Our 2015 Super Lawyers

Kuchler Polk is pleased to announce our lawyers who have been named to Louisiana Super Lawyers and Louisiana Rising Stars for 2015. All of the KP attorneys chosen this year are no stranger to the Super Lawyer/Rising Star lists. Below is a list of our most recently selected attorneys and the years in which they have been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine.  Continue reading “Our 2015 Super Lawyers”