ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 630-903, DIVISION " G" . HONORABLE ROBERT A. PITRE, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING.
R. SCOTT BUHRER, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Metairie, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.
WILEY J. BEEVERS, SHAYNA LYNN BEEVERS, STEVEN M. MAUTERER, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, Gretna, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.
Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Robert A. Chaisson, and Robert M. Murphy.
JUDE G. GRAVOIS,
[14-405 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] Plaintiff/appellant, Adrienne Geiling Wood, appeals the trial court's November 19, 2013 judgment granting defendant/appellee, Glen D. Wood's exceptions of no cause of action and vagueness and motion for summary judgment, and the trial court's February 6, 2014 judgment denying in part plaintiff's motion for a new trial. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court's judgments and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff/appellant, Adrienne Geiling Wood, and defendant/appellee, Glen D. Wood, were married on September 10, 1983. In February 1998, the parties organized " Woody's Collision Specialist, LLC" (" Woody's Collision" ), an automobile collision repair business that was operated by Mr. Wood.
On May 3, 2006, Ms. Wood filed a suit for a divorce against Mr. Wood. In her divorce petition, Ms. Wood requested, among other things, that Mr. Wood be granted the exclusive right to maintain and operate Woody's Collision, pending a [14-405 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] community property partition between the parties. The parties were divorced on January 5, 2007.
On February 21, 2008, Mr. Wood and Ms. Wood consented to a judgment of partial partition of their community property. Pursuant to the partial partition, Mr. Wood received the immovable property (lot and improvements) which housed
Woody's Collision located at No. 17 27th Street, Kenner, Louisiana. However, Woody's Collision (the entity) was not partitioned as part of the partial partition. On November 30, 2011, Mr. Wood filed a motion to 1) set a partial partition of Woody's Collision for trial, 2) dissolve Woody's Collision, and 3) evict Woody's Collision from his now separately owned property. To date, it does not appear from the record that the parties have partitioned Woody's Collision.
On August 19, 2013, Ms. Wood filed a petition for damages against Mr. Wood, alleging entitlement to damages caused by Mr. Wood's mismanagement and/or other tortious conduct involving Woody's Collision. In her petition, Ms. Wood asserted a claim against Mr. Wood for " neglect, mismanagement, non-feasance, breach of fiduciary duty and any other cause of action expressly authorized by Louisiana Civil Code Art. 2369.3 or any other provisions of law." Ms. Wood also claimed that Mr. Wood failed to preserve and prudently manage Woody's Collision by " intentionally siphoning off and diverting LLC funds for his own personal benefit, by generally mismanaging the operations and administration of the business, and by ultimately allowing the business to become defunct." Among the over 30 allegations set forth in her petition, Ms. Wood claims that Mr. Wood evicted Woody's Collision from the building it had leased for years and installed a new, separately owned business, Woody's, LLC, which performed the same services as Woody's Collision.
[14-405 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] On September 9, 2013, in response to Ms. Wood's petition, Mr. Wood filed exceptions of prescription, no cause of action, and vagueness, and a motion for summary judgment. Mr. Wood asserted that Ms. Wood's petition was vague and ambiguous, contained conclusions of law and fact, and contained no material facts upon which the ultimate conclusions were based. Additionally, Mr. Wood's motion for summary judgment claimed that the law did not extend Ms. Wood a remedy under La. C.C. art. 2369.3.
The exceptions and the motion for summary judgment came up for a hearing before the Domestic Commissioner on October 9, 2013. The Domestic Commissioner proceeded to overrule the exceptions of no cause of action and vagueness and to deny the motion for summary judgment.
On October 11, 2013, Mr. Wood filed an objection to the Domestic Commissioner's interim judgment, praying that it be reversed. The parties went before the trial court regarding the objection to the Domestic Commissioner's interim judgment on November 14, 2013. In the trial court's written reasons for judgment filed on November 19, 2013, the court found that La. C.C. art. 2369.3 was inapplicable in this matter for the following two reasons:
... First, despite the assertions of Plaintiff's counsel in his memorandum, the Code article only applies to a spouse--not a former spouse. The Petition for Divorce in this case was filed in May of 2006. The Judgment of Divorce was entered in January of 2007. Mr. Wood has not been Ms. Wood's spouse for almost 7 years.
Second, Article 2369.3 imposes a duty upon a spouse to preserve and manage former community property under his control. The ownership of the business
was not included in the 2008 partial partition. As a result, it is still part of their community.
[14-405 La.App. 5 Cir. 5] (Emphasis in original.) The court then ordered that the objection to the Domestic Commissioner's interim judgment be granted with instructions that the issue be re-evaluated by the Domestic Commissioner.
Subsequently, on November 27, 2013, Ms. Wood filed a motion for a new trial, arguing therein that the trial court's judgment was vague, ambiguous, and susceptible to various interpretations, and also incorrectly interpreted and applied La. C.C. art. 2369.3.
On January 15, 2014, the parties went before the trial court for a hearing on the motion for a new trial. In its February 6, 2014 judgment, the trial court granted the motion for a new trial in part, removing the portion of the court's November 19, 2013 judgment referring the matter back to the Domestic Commissioner for re-evaluation. The court then clarified that the November 19, 2013 judgment reversed the Domestic Commissioner's interim ruling and granted the exceptions of no cause of action and vagueness and the motion for summary judgment. In all other respects, the motion for a new trial was denied.
On March 14, 2014, Ms. Wood sought and was granted a devolutive appeal from the trial court's November 19, 2013 and February 6, 2014 judgments.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. ONE
Exception of no cause of action
In her first assignment of error, Ms. Wood argues that the trial court erred in granting Mr. Wood's exception of no cause of action.
The function of the peremptory exception of no cause of action is to test the legal sufficiency of the petition, and that is done by determining whether the law affords a remedy on the facts alleged in the pleading. Scheffler v. Adams and Reese, LLP, 06-1774 (La. 2/22/07), 950 So.2d 641, 646, citing Ramey v. DeCaire, 03-1299 (La. 3/19/04), 869 So.2d 114, 118. The exception is triable on the face of [14-405 La.App. 5 Cir. 6] the pleadings, and, for purposes of resolving the issues raised by the exception, the court must presume that all well-pleaded facts in the petition are true. Scheffler, 950 So.2d at 646; City of New Orleans v. Board of Commissioners of Orleans Levee ...