A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeal has actually reversed Baton Rouge Landman Dan Collins’ ecological whistleblower win over the Department of Natural Resources.
In its April 28 choice reversing the decision of an East Baton Rouge Parish jury rendered in December 2015, the three-judge panel ruled that Collins was not qualified to gather the damages under the state’s whistleblower law because he was not categorized as a “state worker.”.
DNR, represented by 3 Lafayette lawyers from Oats and Marino, appealed the decision, stating Collins worked for the state under an agreement, that he was not a state worker, and for that reason not qualified to gather damages or any award under the state’s whistleblower statute. The appellate court concurred.
Collins submitted fit versus then-Atchafalaya Basin Program Assistant Director Robert Benoit and DNR, declaring that he and his company, Dan S. Collins CPL, and Associates, had been locked out of land title work by the department after he reported exactly what he thought to be misbehavior about the basin program’s water quality task on Bayou Postillion. The case bounced around the courts (consisting of the Louisiana Supreme Court) for several years based upon difficulties to Collins’ standing to take legal action against till the First Circuit bought a trial to figure out whether Collins was a staff member and could, for that reason, take legal action against DNR as a whistleblower.
Judge Wilson Fields of the 19th Judicial District Court commanded the jury trial, which lasted for 5 days. The jury discovered in Collins’ favor and granted him $250,000 in damages. As a whistleblower, Collins was qualified for triple the quantity granted by the jury.
In their appeal, lawyers for DNR argued that the jury was incorrect to find that Collins was a worker. They pointed out Collins’ statement and files submitted on his behalf where it was mentioned that Collins and his company worked as experts for DNR.
” Thus, complainants have yielded that their claims occur from a legal relationship, instead of an employer-employee relationship,” Judge J. Michael McDonald composed for the consentaneous panel. “Thus, they cannot pursue an action under La. R.S. 30:2027, as it is a statute that is planned to secure workers from enemy action or other negative action by companies for reporting ecological infractions.”.
Robert Benoit, who was called separately and in the main capability as head of the Atchafalaya Basin Program, was pleased with the decision, which he had anticipated in an ABiz interview months back.
” The First Circuit Court of Appeal got this appropriate,” Benoit exults. “The case is over, and the trial jury undoubtedly got it incorrect.”.
Benoit is now a private assistant to Mayor Joel Robideaux.
Collins and a few of individuals who affirmed on his behalf say the appellate court judgment uses just to his standing to gather the award, not the truths surrounding the Bayou Postillion job that his case exposed. As ABiz reported in its March 2016 story, “Atchafalaya shenanigans alive and well,” Collins has declared that during the last years, DNR invested countless taxpayer dollars in counterfeit ecological tasks that made a little cabal of attorneys, landowners and oil and gas business a massive fortune. At the same time, each of them apparently broke ratings of federal and state laws, tricked the public and most likely hurt Louisiana’s already-imperiled and delicate marshlands and environment.
” This case includes retaliation for reporting infractions of ecological law connected with an openly financed task in the Atchafalaya River Basin under the pretense of ‘water quality,'” Collins mentioned in court files, “when the function for digging up the bayou was to gain access to oil and gas expedition for the advantage of personal landowners and business.”.
Collins informs ABiz that he has not yet chosen whether to pursue an attract the Louisiana Supreme Court. “My lawyer Christal Bounds is prosecuting another case today, and we have not yet had an opportunity to pick a strategy,” Collins states. “I wish to appeal the choice, but I’ll wait till I talk to Ms. Bounds before deciding.”.
The First Circuit choice likewise indicates that DNR is not accountable for Collins’ court expenses. In a different choice abandoning the award of court expenses, the court kept in mind that the litigation on the preliminary case had cost Collins $84,553. That figure does not consist of the lawyer costs Collins sustained in the procedure of the appeal.