Local governments in Louisiana are authorized to impose annual ad valorem property taxes on immovable and corporeal movable property. La. Const. of 1974 art. 6, §§ 26, 27 & 30. Property owners are required to file annual renditions prior to April 1 of each year. La. R.S. 47:2324. Locally elected assessors annually determine the fair market value and assessed value of property based upon the status and condition of taxable property on January 1 of each tax year and are responsible for listing the assessments on the official assessment lists. La. R.S. 47:1952. The assessment lists are open for public inspection during a fifteen day period determined by the assessor. Generally, the fifteen day period must fall between August 15 and September 15 of each year. La. R.S. 47:1992(G). During the fifteen day period, taxpayers may confirm their assessments and discuss changes to the assessments with the assessor. La. R.S. 47:1992(A)(2). Within three days after the end of the public inspection period, the assessors must certify the assessments lists to the local boards of review, which consist of the parish governing authorities. Appeals to the boards of review must be filed with the boards of review no later than seven days prior to the board of review hearings. La. R.S. 47:1992(C). That is, the taxpayer must confirm the dates of the board of review hearings by checking for publication of the appeal dates in the official journal of the parish and making sure that any appeal is filed with the board of review no later than seven days prior to the board of review hearing. The board of review is authorized to increase or decrease the assessment in accordance with the fair market or use valuation determined by the board. La. R.S. 47:1992(C).
The Office of Inspector General issued Advisory Opinion No. 08-10 on August 19, 2008 regarding a proposal for a physician group practice to lease a facility owned by the practice on a part-time basis to other physician groups for the groups to provide certain radiation therapy treatments to their patients. The physician group practice that owns the facility had requested this advisory opinion from the OIG on whether the OIG considers the proposed part-time (i.e., block) leases of the facility to other physician groups would generate prohibited remuneration under the Federal anti-kickback statute.
A number of construction industry trade groups or associations, such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), among others, have developed a variety of “standard form” construction contracts that have been used in the industry for many years, and are periodically updated. When engaging an architect or contractor, many owners are requested to sign these standard form agreements.
“Someone is using my photos and website design on the internet without permission. What can I do?” These questions arise more and more with the increased use of the internet in business. The technical answer is that you have a potential claim for copyright infringement. Filing a federal lawsuit under the Copyright Act, however, is not a realistic option for many businesses, particularly when monetary damages may not be at issue. The goods news is that with the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), 17 U.S.C 512, victims of internet copyright infringement now have a more practical option for achieving the desired result – removing the infringing material from the internet – without filing a lawsuit.
Did you know that an employer may be liable for failure to properly screen employees when such failure results in hiring someone that has a history of violent or criminal acts? Louisiana recognizes claims against an employer that hires an employee with dangerous propensities when that employee injures third persons at work. An employer may be liable for negligent hiring if it knew or should have known that the employee posed a threat to others. Similarly, an employer is liable for negligent retention when it continues to employ an employee knowing of his dangerous propensities.
In Sher v. Lafayette Insurance Co. (La. 2008), an apartment unit was flooded when levees failed immediately following Hurricane Katrina. The insurer inspected the property to determine the amount of covered loss and concluded that most of the building’s damage was due to poor maintenance, disrepair, and flooding. Checks totaling slightly more than $2,700 were tendered but rejected. Although the term “flood” was not defined in the policy, the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the argument that the definition depended on whether the event resulted from a natural disaster or a man-made one, instead focusing on the prevailing meaning of the word “flood,” i.e., the overflow of a body of water causing a large amount of water to cover an area that is usually dry. Accordingly, the court did not find the term ambiguous, and found that the levee breaches were covered by the flood exclusion.
In Landry v. Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Co. (La. 2008), the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected a homeowner’s breach of contract claim against the insurer for failure to pay the face value of the policy after their house was totally destroyed by Hurricane Rita. The parties did not dispute that the insurance in question covered any loss caused by wind and rain, and that the policy specifically excluded damages caused by flood waters. Even so, the homeowner claimed that Louisiana’s statutory law (R.S. 22:695) obligated the insurer to pay the face value of the policy. The insurer responded, asserting several defenses, including damages caused by flood, high tides, and storm surge. The statute in question was the Louisiana Value Policy Law (R.S. 22:695), that sets forth the methodology to compute loss and that its provisions are not altered due to concurrently causing damages, even if one of such damages is not covered.
On June 10, 2008, Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that Louisiana was one of twelve (12) communities chosen to participate in an Electronic Health Records Medicare Demonstration Project. The project will last five (5) years and will provide physicians with financial incentives to use certified electronic health records (EHRs). Incentive payments for the entire 5-year period may reach $58,000 per physician and $290,000 per practice.
In Advisory Opinion No. 08-05, issued February 15, 2008, the OIG concluded that an arrangement whereby a pharmaceutical company placed electronic kiosks in physician offices would not generate prohibited remuneration under the anti-kickback statute. Further, the OIG opined that the arrangement would not violate the federal prohibition against giving anything of value to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary that is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular provider.
In a major victory for business interests involved in maritime operations and what many commentators say is a harbinger of things to come, the United States Supreme Court recently struck down the $2.5 billion punitive damage award against ExxonMobil in a case involving claims for individual economic damages filed by landowners, native Alaskans and commercial fisherman following the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez. See Exxon Shipping Company, et al v. Grant Baker, et al, 554 U.S. ____(June 25, 2008). The Court determined that the upper limit for punitive damages in maritime cases was a 1:1 ratio to compensatory damages and sent the case back to the appellate court to reduce the punitive damage award to $507.5 million which was the amount of compensatory damages (those agreed upon in settlement and those awarded following trial) that the trial court determined were relevant for purposes of determining punitive damages.