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Vol. 3, Iss. 5
March 19, 2014

Louisiana’s Doubloon-y Mardi Gras Statutes

Mardi Gras was March 4th. The last issue of Coverage Opinions was March 5th. So, yes, this article is a little late. Why it was not in the last issue is a long story. Mardi Gras is, needless to say, a big part of life in New Orleans. So it should come as no surprise that the Louisiana legislature has an interest in keeping it going. One way to do that is to enact statutes to protect the sponsors of Mardi Gras parades from being sued out of business if something goes wrong during a parade that causes injury. [Coincidentally, see this issue’s “Randy Spencer’s Open Mic” column for the insurance aspect of this issue.]

To those of you not in Louisiana -- Did you know that the following statute is on the books in the Pelican State that grants immunity from throwing “missiles?”:

Any person who is attending or participating in one of the organized parades of floats or persons listed in Subsection A of this Section, when the parade begins and ends between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight of the same day, assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed, or hurled by members of the krewe or organization in such parades held prior to the effective date of this Section. The items shall include but are not limited to beads, cups, coconuts, and doubloons unless said loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of said krewe or organization.

LSA-R.S. 9:2796

Schell v. K&K Insurance Group, 756 So. 2d 546 (La. Ct. App. 2000) provides an example of parade immunity under a closely related statute. Vincent Schell filed suit against the Louisiana Irish–Italian Association, its insurer K & K Insurance Group, and Jane Doe for damages allegedly suffered when he was watching a parade and “suddenly and without warning” was struck in the face. First by a blow-pop which hit his upper lip and front tooth. Then, while he was tending to his lip, he was struck by a large cabbage that severely cut his lip and damaged his front teeth. Schell alleged that “Jane Doe”, the anonymous float rider who threw the “offending missiles,” was negligent for failing to see what she should have seen and failing to act as a reasonable person. Schell alleged that the Association was grossly negligent for allowing its members to throw objects which it knew or should have known were likely to cause injury, failing to properly instruct its members in throwing objects and allowing an inexperienced member to ride on its floats.

The court held: “After reviewing the record in this matter, we conclude that the Association bore its burden of proving immunity under the statute for purposes of summary judgment. Under the statute, a plaintiff must prove gross negligence by the organization. Such negligence by a member does not in itself impose liability upon the organization. An individual member can still be held liable under the statute for individual acts of negligence. The record contains no facts to support an allegation of gross negligence on the part of the Association.” (emphasis added).


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