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Law School Case Brief

Landry v. Bellanger - 851 So. 2d 943 (La. 2003)

Rule:

Reading each section of La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2323 and giving effect to each portion of the article, the fault of all persons causing or contributing to injury, regardless of the basis of liability, is to be determined, and, if a negligent plaintiff is injured as a result of the fault of an intentional tortfeasor, his claim for recovery of damages shall not be reduced by his percentage of fault. It is appropriate to consider each party's respective fault when a matter involves intentional tortfeasors. In prohibiting the reduction of a negligent plaintiff's damages, La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2323(C) reflects a legislative determination that on the continuum of moral culpability, the act of an intentional actor should not benefit from a reduction in the damages inflicted on a less culpable negligent actor.

Facts:

After a bar patron verbally accosted the tortfeasor in the bar for a period of time and poked him in the chest, the tortfeasor invited the patron outside. The patron bumped the tortfeasor with his chest, and the tortfeasor hit him once in the head. The patron sued to recover for damages resulting from injuries sustained as a result. The trial court ruled in favor of the patron. The appellate court, on the other hand, refused to apply La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2323(C) and concluded that fault should be apportioned between the parties.

Issue:

Was the “aggressor doctrine” a valid defense to an intentional tort under Louisiana’s pure comparative fault regime?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the aggressor doctrine was no longer viable under the comparative fault system. Under the pure comparative fault system, the fault of all persons causing or contributing to inury was to be compared. According to the Court, pursuant to the rules imposed by La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2323, comparative fault principles should be applied to alleged plaintiff negligence, thereby eliminating the inequities inherent in the "all or nothing" recovery rules that prevailed prior to the adoption of comparative fault. In the case at bar, the Court ruled that the patron's recovery was barred because the tortfeasor was acting in self-defense and was, therefore, without fault in causing the patron's injuries.

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