HAZA Foods, LLC v. Henderson
HAZA Foods works hard to support local communities through sponsorships of Little League teams or by offering free food at community events. Furthermore, their employees strive to become involved with community initiatives.
HAZA Foods owns and operates Wendy’s and Taco Bell locations in Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Jersey.
Exception of Prescription
HAZA Foods of Louisiana LLC owns and operates various Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurants throughout Louisiana. On December 24, 2016, Wanda Henderson visited one of these establishments and alleged she suffered injuries after slipping on a wet floor and experiencing slipperiness during her visit.
As soon as she filed her original suit in an improper venue, HAZA Foods of Louisiana LLC filed an exception of prescription to dismiss Ms. Henderson’s claims with prejudice. On March 2, 2021, the trial court signed off on this exception of medicine and granted its application against Ms. Henderson’s suit filed against them with prejudice.
Ms. Henderson contends on appeal that the trial court was incorrect in finding her claims prescription due to the defendant’s failure to renounce them by filing its responsive pleadings within 15 days of service of her petition, raising drug in its exception of improper venue, filing its exception of medicine more than one year after Orleans Parish Civil District Court ordered transfer, or engaging in general personal injury discovery before filing their exception of prescription. We find no merit in her claim.
Exception of Improper Venue
Plaintiffs typically select their preferred litigation forum; however, defendants can contest that choice on various jurisdictional and venue grounds. With courts still grappling with the new laws from TC Heartland’s rulings in mind, determining when one party waives its right to challenge venue can become increasingly complex.
HAZA Foods’ focus is to support local businesses and schools while also building relationships among employees through celebrating employee achievements – known as HAZA Heroes – while volunteering together in each community it serves. Their locations frequently host school-based events like Operation Stocking Stuffers during the holiday season.
Ms. Ruffins contends that the trial court erred by granting HAZA Foods’ peremptory exception of prescription as they have since relinquished any entitlement through continued litigation and by failing to address it within their improper venue exception and filing their exception almost a year after Orleans Parish Civil District Court ordered the suit transferred, they have relinquished any entitlement they might otherwise have had under prescription defense law.
Exception of Renunciation
At HAZA Foods, Dhanani wanted to ensure his company supported local communities and gave back to employees in each location he operated from. “Whether that means sponsoring a little league team or offering free meals at community events – making sure employees receive support in each location is a core value,” according to him. Additionally, sharing stories of employees who go above and beyond and honoring them as “HAZA Heroes” also played a part. Thus, the court granted an exception of renunciation while rejecting Ms. Ruffins’s claim of accrued prescription.
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Exception of Contra Non Valentem
Contra nonvalentem is the fourth exception that suspends prescription in cases where factual impediments prevent plaintiffs from filing suit within the prescriptive or preemptive periods to avoid the harsh result of permitting intentional tortfeasors to escape accountability for their unlawful acts. Most often, this applies when ignorance prevents filing claims promptly.
For instance, a plaintiff might not realize the location of Wendy’s was inaccurate until after she experienced an injury at that Wendy’s and filed suit immediately afterward; had this discovery occurred before running out of statute of limitations, she may have been barred by laches, but because this happened after it ran its course and the misrepresentation had come into light after that deadline had expired she was still allowed to file suit without being subject to contra nonvalentem restrictions.
This case serves as a timely reminder that, although courts recognize lay people may be unfamiliar with their legal rights, ignorance must not delay commencing litigation. Plaintiffs should make every effort to pursue their claims as soon as they become aware of them and must initiate their cases before reaching the statute of limitations deadline.