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Batson v. Cherokee Beach & Campgrounds, Inc. - 530 So. 2d 1128 (La. 1988)

Rule:

Whether a petition sets forth a cause of action is irrelevant to the issue of interruption of prescription. A civil action is commenced by the filing of a pleading presenting the demand. La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 421. Therefore, if what is filed can be classified as a "pleading presenting the demand," prescription will be interrupted whether or not the original pleading sets forth a cause of action. Prescription is continually interrupted while the suit is pending, as long as the suit was commenced in a court of competent jurisdiction and venue and plaintiff does not abandon, voluntarily dismiss or fail to prosecute the suit at trial. La. Civ. Code Ann. arts. 3462 and 3463. If prescription has been interrupted and the suit is subsequently involuntarily dismissed without prejudice, the prescriptive period begins to run anew and plaintiff has the full prescriptive period to commence the new action. If prescription has been interrupted and the suit is subsequently involuntarily dismissed with prejudice, then the interruption of prescription will be immaterial because of res judicata.

Facts:

Plaintiff William Batson filed suit in Louisiana state court on June 12, 1978 against defendant Cherokee Beach and Campgrounds, Inc. ("Cherokee") and others seeking to recover damages for injuries he allegedly sustained as a result of a tubing accident. Cherokee filed an answer generally denying the allegations and subsequently filed a peremptory exception of no cause of action. The trial judge sustained the exception of no cause of action and dismissed Batson's suit against Cherokee on Dec. 17, 1980. Batson appealed, and the court of appeal held that although the trial judge properly sustained the exception of no cause of action because the petition failed to specify facts to support the allegations of negligence, Batson should have been given the opportunity to substantiate his claim with factual allegations. Accordingly, the court of appeal ordered the trial judge to allow Batson a delay of 15 days (commencing upon the finality of the court of appeal's judgment) within which to amend his petition. 

Batson failed to amend his petition within the 15-day delay. Cherokee filed an ex parte motion to dismiss based on that failure, and the trial judge rendered judgment dismissing the suit without prejudice on Sept. 29, 1983. Batson received notice of the judgment of dismissal without prejudice on Sept. 30, 1983 and filed, with leave of court, a first amended petition and a motion for a new trial on Oct. 5, 1983. Cherokee filed a motion to vacate the order granting Batson leave to file the amended petition as well as exceptions of no right of action, prescription, and lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. The trial judge vacated his earlier order granting leave to amend, denied Batson's motion for a new trial, and maintained Cherokee's exceptions, thereby leaving intact the Sept. 29, 1983 dismissal without prejudice. Batson appealed, and the court of appeal affirmed the dismissal without prejudice. Batson was granted a writ of certiorari.

Issue:

Did Batson's action prescribe and was it barred by res judicata?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The state supreme court held that Batson's claim had not prescribed because prescription was interrupted when Batson filed the original action against Cherokee. The claim was not barred by res judicata because the original suit was dismissed without prejudice, which did not constitute a bar to another suit for the same cause of action. As such, the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the trial court's judgment that sustained the exception of prescription was reversed. Additionally, the judgment of the trial court that sustained the exception of res judicata was reversed. The case was remanded to the trial court.

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