Legal Memorandum: Continuing Tort Theory in LA

Issue: May the continuing tort theory be applied to extend prescriptive periods in Louisiana?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Continuing tort theory; Prescriptive period
Jurisdiction: Louisiana
Cited Cases: 418 So.2d 531; 290 F.3d 303; 737 So.2d 720; 58 So. 3d 601; 310 F.3d 870
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2013

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Terrebonne Parish School Bd. v. Columbia Gulf Transmission Co., 290 F.3d 303 (5th Cir. 2002) (applying Louisiana law), lays the framework for an argument to interrupt the prescriptive period on the tort claims.  Other case law also is helpful, especially that which, like Columbia Gulf, differentiates the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision in Crump v. Sabine River Auth., 737 So.2d 720 (La. 1999).  See, e.g., St. Martin v. Mobil Exploration & Producing U.S. Inc., 324 F.3d 402 (5th Cir 2000)

Under the continuing tort doctrine, the crucial inquiry is not whether the damage is continuing, but rather whether the damaging conduct continues.  “When the damaging conduct continues, prescription runs from the date of the last harmful act.”  South Cent. Bell Tel. Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 418 So.2d 531, 532 (La. 1982); see also Bustamento v. Tucker, 607 So. 2d 532 (La. 1992).  A court will “look to the operating cause of the injury sued upon and determine whether it is a continuous one giving rise to successive damages, or whether it is discontinuous and terminates, even though the damage persists and may progressively worsening.”  Lee v. City of Shreveport, 58 So. 3d 601, 605 (La. Ct. App. 2d Cir. 2011). 

See La. Const. art 12, § 13 (“Prescription shall not run against the state in any civil matter unless otherwise provided in this constitution or expressly by law.”).  A series of […]

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