Times Picayune Publishing Corp. v. Board of Supervisors was a case before the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in 2003 concerning records of payments made by the state to settle a lawsuit.
This case established that there was no exemption within the Louisiana Public Records Act to protect settlements of lawsuits in which the state is a party.
- In 1992 the Louisiana State University, School of Dentistry was served with a dental malpractice lawsuit. In 1998, the suit expanded to include 674 other individuals who had suffered from the Vitek "Proplast" dental implants designed at the University.
- On April 16, 2001, the University settled with the original plaintiff and on April 26, 2001, the original case was dismissed. As a part of the settlement, the original plaintiff and the University agreed to a non-disclosure agreement to keep the terms of the settlement confidential.
- The Times Picayune submitted an open records request on April 25, 2009 for all records relating to the settlement of the case.
- The University rejected the request based on the exemption within the Louisiana Public Records Act for "open claim files"
- On May 16, 2002, the Newspapers resubmitted the request, claiming that the file was no longer an open claim as it had been settled. The University again claimed that the files were exempt until all pending litigation was completed, referring implicitly to the large class action lawsuit.
- The newspaper filed suit, and in the hearing the University argued that the documents were still considered pending because the legal tactics and information present in the first case had an affect on the subsequent larger case.
- On September 26, 2002, the trial court ruled in favor of the newspapers and ordered the documents released.
- The decision was appealed.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the newspapers, determining that the document in question was in fact a closed case and thus no longer exempt from records request. The court ordered the release of the documents in question.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, ordering the documents released.
The Court of Appeals first determined that the records in question were in fact public records as they specifically related to the expenditure of public funds. The court went on to agree with the trial court that a pending claim is one that is still subject to judicial scrutiny. The court felt that as the claim in question was settled, it no longer fit under this exemption. Finally the court rejected the University's contention that the spirit of the exemption protected the files in question. The court felt that if they permitted the University to determine what constituted a pending claim, they would be opening the door for public agencies to circumvent the true intention of the Louisiana Public Records Act, which is the release of public documents. Based on all these facts, the court affirmed the decision of the trial court and ordered the documents released.
- ↑ FDA advisory on Proplast implants
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Ruling of the Court