A Louisiana appeals court has reversed a ruling by a Lafayette district court judge dismissing a personal injury suit against a couple and their insurance company filed by a contractor who was seriously injured at the couple’s home while preparing a bid for a renovation project. The contractor, Markus Trautmann, was injured at the Acacia Drive home of Charles and Jeanne Fitzgerald when a second-floor balcony railing gave way while Trautmann was inspecting the balcony, sending him tumbling to the yard below. The house had recently been purchased by the Fitzgeralds after sitting vacant for seven years.
According to the 3rd Circuit opinion reversing the ruling, District Judge Durwood Conque based his ruling dismissing Trautmann’s suit on a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision — and a subsequent rewrite by the Louisiana Legislature of the state’s liability laws — prohibiting repairmen from recovering damages in some liability cases. But the appellate panel ruled that the “repairman prohibition” doesn’t apply to those “who go onto property for the purpose of preparing a bid to obtain a contract of repair.”
Also at issue in the case was a dispute between the plaintiffs and the defendant about whether Trautmann had declined to see an inspection report on the property — a report that noted the porch’s deficient condition and its need for replacement. But testimony at the hearing seeking the summary judgement against Trautman also revealed that after some hesitation, Jeanne Fitzgerald felt safe venturing out on the porch.
The reversal of Conque’s ruling sends the case back to district court in Lafayette.