Can a business recover damages for severe inconvenience or mental anguish?

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Often times business owners incur emotional stress and severe inconvenience which can lead to the incurrence of actual damages. Louisiana law views a business, such as an LLC, separate and apart from an individual. For obvious reasons, a business is incapable of having its emotions or stress levels affected by a severe inconvenience.

Louisiana Jurisprudence is clear that an award for mental anguish resulting from property damage requires a finding of “real mental injury” or “psychic trauma in the nature of or similar to a physical injury.”  However, Louisiana Courts also recognize a damage award for inconvenience that is not based on mental injury or trauma, but due to the loss of use of property.

In 2017, the city of New Orleans contracted for the world famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter to be completely demolished and replaced. This included substantial underground work replacing sewer lines and drainage. The French Quarter is home to many businesses. In the case of Darlene Jacobs Levy, et al., vs Hard Rock construction of Louisiana, LLC, Levy alleged that her businesses suffered damages, including severe inconvenience, when the defendant severed the business telephone line.

Hard Rock contended that the plaintiff businesses were not entitled to recover damages for mental anguish. The court denied the defendants request to have the case dismissed citing FIE, LLC v. New Jax Condo Association, Inc., which holds that business entities are entitled to compensation for loss of use of property, as distinguished from awards for mental anguish due to property damage.

The 4th Circuit held that plaintiffs did not allege mental anguish from severed phone lines, but they did allege inability to contact clients constituting a severe inconvenience and loss of use. The Court’s ruling reaffirms the established Louisiana Jurisprudence that while a business entity cannot recover from mental anguish it can certainly recover damages for loss of use.

If your business has suffered damages due to loss of use because of another party’s actions, please contact our office and allow us the opportunity to get your business back on track.

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