The Louisiana Supreme Court recently interpreted the fax-filing statute to require “delivery” of an original pleading to the clerk within seven days after the fax filing. If the pleading is to be given the fax-filing date, you must now “deliver” the original and the fee to the clerk before the seven-day deadline. And you’re expected to prove when the “delivery” occurred.
In Petit-Blanc v. Charles, 2021-00094 (La. 4/20/21); — So.3d —-, the plaintiff fax-filed a petition for damages on November 13, 2019 concerning a November 18, 2018, automobile accident. The clerk received the original petition and fee on November 25. The trial court overruled the defendants’ exception of prescription, and the First Circuit denied writs. On writ to the Supreme Court, the lower decisions were reversed in a per curiam opinion.
The Court noted that the 2016 amendment to La. R.S. 13:850(C) requires a fax-filing party to “deliver” the original document to the clerk within seven days of the fax transmission. The earlier version of the statute only required the party to “forward” the original, which was satisfied when the original was simply placed in the mail. But “delivery” requires “actual or constructive possession” by the clerk. The Court concluded that merely transmitting an original document within the deadline is insufficient. Instead, the filing party must establish that the document was delivered to the clerk within the seven-day deadline. Because the plaintiff had no evidence to establish when the clerk received the original pleading, he couldn’t meet his burden of proving “delivery” to take advantage of the fax-filing date, and therefore avoid prescription.
This interpretation of La. R.S. 13:850(C) should only impact parties filing original pleadings where timeliness is essential. For these time-sensitive filings, the best option may be to send it by certified mail if you can’t hand-deliver the original. The Supreme Court cited favorably Clark v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 18-0052 (La. App. 5 Cir. 10/31/18), 259 So. 3d 516, which held a petition was “delivered” to the clerk of court when a clerk’s office employee signed a green card for the plaintiff’s certified mail. Some record of the pleading’s delivery is going to be necessary.
The opinion is Petit-Blanc v. Charles, 2021-00094 (La. 4/20/21); — So.3d —-, 2021 WL 1540984.