LEGAL CORNER: “Handshake deals,” law suits, and hunting feral hogs

LEGAL CORNER: “Handshake deals,” law suits, and hunting feral hogs

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Submit your questions to news@kplctv.com. Civil matters only, please.

QUESTION: My house needs some construction work done. When I asked my contractor about signing a contract, he says he usually does “handshake deals.” Should I have him sign a contract anyway?

ANSWER: This is a good question, particularly because you are asking before the contract is finalized and/or the work has begun! (It is frustrating when we have to admonish clients to stop signing first and asking the lawyer afterwards!) One of the best protections against fraud is to verify the contractor is licensed to do business in your area, and is also insured in case there are unforeseen problems arising before or during construction. In the old days, one could simply ask if the contractor was licensed/bonded. Nowadays, the question should be “when can I see a copy of your license and what is your bond #?” Once you have been given copies, you can actually go online and verify the license is valid and that the bond has not expired.

A written contract is not absolutely necessary, but it is assuredly better than an oral one. It is always better to agree in writing for the simple fact that it clears up any ambiguity about what is expected, in exchange for what, and when the estimated time of completion is to be. It can also stipulate to damages if one party fails to perform, and for other contingencies, such as one party being unable to perform, and where the appropriate place to file suit will be. The one drafting the contract is usually held more responsible if the language regarding a certain issue is unclear.

QUESTION: I needed to file a lawsuit, and was given a sample “petition”. Is that the same thing as a lawsuit?

ANSWER: A “law suit” is a generic term that refers to a legal proceeding or action by one person against another for a remedy, redress, or enforcement of a right, (See Black’s Law Dictionary).

Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 421 describes a civil action as a demand for the enforcement of a legal right that is commenced by the “…filing of a pleading presenting the demand to a court of competent jurisdiction.” The “pleading” that “presents” the demand is usually a “petition.” For example, when a succession is filed in Louisiana, it is done with a “Petition for Possession.” When a standard car accident case is filed, it is done most often using a “Petition for Damages.” And some petitions are obvious, such as a “Petition for Divorce” or a “Petition for Intervention” or a “Petition for Eviction.” So, yes, filing a lawsuit is usually done by way of petitioning the court. Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Art. 891 sets out the written requirements for a valid petition. There are many rules for drafting petitions (i.e. alleging jurisdiction, alleging venue, no precise dollar figure for damages, numbered paragraphs, prayers, signatures etc). An experienced, defense attorney can really take advantage of a poorly drafted petition and cause procedural delays and hurdles. The Law Center always advises conferring with an experienced attorney before commencing any legal actions.

QUESTION: I read where they are drafting legislation to allow for the hunting of feral hogs without a hunting license. I thought you did not need a license to kill “nuisance animals”. Are they not nuisance animals?

ANSWER: Holders of a valid Louisiana hunting license may take coyotes, feral hogs where legal and armadillos year round during legal daylight shooting hours. The running of coyotes with dogs is prohibited in all turkey hunting areas during the open turkey season. Coyote hunting is restricted to chase only when using dogs during still hunting segments of the firearm and archery only season for deer. Foxes are protected quadrupeds and may be taken only with traps by licensed trappers during the trapping season. On private property, the landowner, or his lessee or agent with written permission and the landowner’s contact information in his possession, may take outlaw quadrupeds (coyotes, armadillos and feral hogs), nutria or beaver during the nighttime hours from one-half hour after official sunset on the last day of February to one-half hour after official sunset the last day of August of that same year. Beginning Aug. 15, 2011, the method of such taking shall be with any legal firearm and may be with or without the aid of artificial light, infrared or laser sighting devices, or night vision devices. Anyone taking part in these activities at night is required to notify the parish sheriff’s office 24 hours in advance of any such hunt.

Wildlife and Fisheries website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov

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