ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 719-366, DIVISION " F" . HONORABLE MICHAEL P. MENTZ, JUDGE PRESIDING.
BRUCE M. DANNER, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Madisonville, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.
VALLERIE OXNER, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Metairie, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANTS.
Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson and Stephen J. Windhorst.
STEPHEN J. WINDHORST, J.
[14-207 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] Appellants, Reginene and Tyrone Legette (" the Legettes" ), appeal from the trial court's judgment in favor of JIB Line Group, L.L.C. (" JIB" ) and against the Legettes in the amount of $59,700.00. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
On August 23, 2005, JIB and the Legettes entered into an " Investment Agreement" involving the Sabal Park Holiday Inn Stay Bridge Hotels (" the property" ), wherein JIB agreed to pay to the Legettes $60,000.00 as an initial investment in the property. The hotel was not completed
until 2007 and only operated for a couple of months before it was closed.
On September 24, 2012, JIB filed a petition for damages seeking the return of its initial investment of $60,000.00, pursuant to the terms of the agreement.  After trial on the merits, the trial court entered judgment in favor of JIB and against the Legettes in the amount of $59,700.00. The trial court found that there was a contractual agreement between JIB and the Legettes, individually, and not with Sabal Park Sunway L.L.C., or any other entity. The trial court determined [14-207 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] that the agreement was not ambiguous, but even assuming it was, uncertainties would be construed against the party who prepared the document, i.e., the Legettes. The trial court further found that the Legettes certified that within the first five years all of the initial $60,000.00 investment " will be earned by the property and returned to the investor." The trial court then awarded judgment in favor of JIB and against the Legettes, individually.
In their only assignment of error, the Legettes contend that the trial court erred in finding that the Legettes were personally responsible for returning JIB's initial investment. The Legettes argue that the agreement clearly provides that the funds would be earned by and returned from the property's earnings, not from the Legettes. The Legettes and JIB both agree that the sole issue in this case is the interpretation of the one-page document entitled " Investment Agreement."
Generally, a contract, subject to interpretation on the four corners of the instrument without the necessity of extrinsic evidence, is interpreted as a matter of law. 2800 Assocs., L.L.C. v. Eagle Equity Ltd. P'ship, 10-687 (La.App. 5 Cir. 3/29/11), 64 So.3d 283, 290; Bayou Fleet P'ship v. Phillip Family, LLC, 11-924 (La.App. 5 Cir. 3/27/12), 91 So.3d 1112, 1115. However, when factual findings are necessary to resolve a dispute over conflicting interpretations of the contract, those findings may only be disturbed if they are found to be manifestly erroneous. 2800 Associates, L.L.C., 64 So.3d at 290; Bayou Fleet Partnership, 91 So.3d at 1115.
A determination of fact is entitled to great deference on review. McGlothlin v. Christus St. Patrick Hosp., 10-2775 (La. 7/1/11), 65 So.3d 1218, 1230. Factual findings of a trier of fact may not be disturbed by an appellate court absent manifest error. Cambre v. St. John the Baptist Parish, 12-590 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/16/13), 119 So.3d 73, 77, writ denied, 13-1415 (La. 10/11/13), 123 So.3d 1227. [14-207 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] Where a conflict in the testimony exists, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed, even though the ...