Best Lawyers: A Sinking Grocery Store
My Toughest Case
There is a grocery store in Shreveport that attorney Keith Bergeron can’t drive by without remembering one of the most challenging cases in his legal career. At one point, half the store had fallen by 15 inches.
“You could let go of your basket from one end of the store and it would slide all the way down to the other end of the store,” Bergeron said. “Instead of a slip-and-fall, we called it a slide-and-fall. We had a building sitting on top of the problem; eventually we were able to resolve and correct the issue.”
The case was one of the more challenging types in Bergeron’s field of construction law, one that required an in-depth understanding of design and aspects of technical engineering.
Bergeron earned his undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of New Orleans. After graduation, he worked at Chevron for about 10 years as a mechanical engineer in its pipeline company, responsible for delivering crude oil and natural gas to refineries onshore. During that time he decided to go to law school.
“When I left Chevron, I left the technical world,” Bergeron said. “However, I always wanted to remain involved in some way. I didn’t want to be doing the calculations on the technical side but instead help those individuals understand how they should, or should not behave in the business world. There is value to helping people along and make them realize that most mistakes can be corrected.”
It was while taking a class in construction law at Loyola University taught by his current boss, Terry Brennan, that Bergeron began to learn the legal side of engineering.
“As a degreed engineer, I realized that it is always nice to go into somebody’s office who is also an engineer,” he said. “I think it helps my clients because we have similar backgrounds, and I have done this type of work and understand it.”
With new construction so prevalent throughout Louisiana, and in New Orleans in particular, Bergeron has no shortage of work.
“Look at the city — we have all brand-new public schools, a new medical center with the VA (Veterans Administration) hospital,” he said. “There are so many buildings being renovated in the Warehouse District. All of that activity has a pretty good chance of coming across my desk, especially on the public work side.”
Although he will quickly cite the case involving the grocery store in Shreveport as one of the more complex and prolonged cases in his 18-year career, Bergeron said that some of the most challenging cases arise when the client hasn’t done anything wrong to cause the problem.
“Getting a lawsuit brought against you brings the stigma that you did something wrong, [but] sometimes that is not the true statement. I find myself in situations that once you do the investigation, you can see that the client really didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Another struggle Bergeron faces is when a case involves someone who has been injured on a job site.
“I worked offshore. Sometimes things happen around you that you can’t control. My biggest challenge is looking at cases where people get injured or killed with the respect they deserve while trying to determine what happened,” he said. “Those cases are difficult. The money doesn’t replace the person.”
Keith J. Bergeron
Deutsch Kerrigan L.L.P.
18 years of practice
B.S. Engineering University of New Orleans 1991
J.D. Loyola University New Orleans 1998