James J. Reeves II

Partner with Melchiode Marks King.

Reported Decisions/Slip Opinions:


James Reeves of the Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr, & Smith New Orleans Office Wins Appeal Resolving Split in Louisiana Law:

James Reeves from the GJTBS New Orleans office recently prevailed in the appeal of a trial court decision denying a motion for abandonment.

In brief, dozens of plaintiffs sued the client, a general contractor, due to collateral property damage allegedly caused by the contractor's operations.  While the plaintiffs sued and served the utility company that instructed the client to use the allegedly destructive construction methods, the client-contractor had not been served or noticed with this lawsuit for nearly a decade.  All the while, the plaintiffs had been actively litigating with the utility.  Plaintiffs finally served the client almost ten years after suing the client.

If a step is not taken in a case in three years, it is automatically dismissed under Louisiana law (this is known as "abandonment").  However, the Fourth Circuit of Louisiana had previously ruled in Sprowl v. Wohl, 576 So. 2d 638 (La. App. 4th Cir.), writ denied, 580 So.2d 928 (La. 1991) that an action taken against one defendant would interrupt the abandonment period as to other defendants, regardless of whether the inactive party had been served or noticed with suit.  This holding contradicted the majority rule in Louisiana, which holds, generally, that the abandonment period would run as to a party without notice of suit, regardless of the plaintiff's actions against the served defendants.  In the appeal, Reeves identified that the Fourth Circuit appeared to diverge from this general theme that abandonment runs in favor of parties without notice of suit, and that the Fourth Circuit's failure to distinguish parties with and without notice ran afoul of the Louisiana's Supreme Court's rulings on the issue.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit clarified its position to recognize a distinction between parties with and without notice, resolving the apparent circuit split in the state of Louisiana.  The trial court's denial was reversed, and Reeves' client was dismissed from the suit.