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Nunez v. Superior Hospitality Sys., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 23, 2014

KARLA NUNEZ
v.
SUPERIOR HOSPITALITY SYSTEMS, INC., ET AL

ON APPEAL FROM THE FIRST PARISH COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA, NO. 155-143, DIVISION " B" . HONORABLE GEORGE W. GIACOBBE, JUDGE PRESIDING.

RONALD J WHITE, DONALD R. WING, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana and Hammond, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.

IRA J. GONZALEZ, ATTORNEY AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.

Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Robert A. Chaisson, and Hans J. Liljeberg.

OPINION

Page 1005

[14-668 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER, Judge.

Defendant, Superior Hospitality Systems, Inc. d/b/a SHS Group, Inc. (" SHS" ), appeals the trial court's denial of its Petition for Nullity, which sought to nullify the trial court's original judgment in favor of Plaintiff, Karla Nunez. For the reasons discussed below, we find that the trial court's original judgment in favor of Ms. Nunez is an absolute nullity. Therefore, the trial court erred in denying SHS's Petition for Nullity. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment denying SHS's Petition for Nullity.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case concerns the requirements for service in a summary proceeding. On November 4, 2013, Karla Nunez commenced a summary proceeding against SHS seeking unpaid compensation, court costs, and attorney's fees under La. R.S. 23:631 and La. R.S. 23:632.[1] Ms. Nunez's petition

Page 1006

alleged that SHS, her former [14-668 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] employer, assigned her to work as a housekeeper in a hotel from January 7, 2013, until January 23, 2013. Ms. Nunez's petition alleges that during this assignment, she worked at least 62 hours over a period of eight days. Ms. Nunez's petition alleged that SHS failed to properly compensate her for her work and is therefore liable to her for unpaid wages, penalty wages, attorney's fees, court costs, and interest.[2]

In her petition, Ms. Nunez requested service on SHS at the address listed by the Secretary of State for SHS's registered agent for service of process. On November 19, 2013, a sheriff's deputy attempted to serve Ms. Nunez's petition. The sheriff's return indicates that the sheriff's deputy was unable to make service on either the registered agent for service of process or on SHS itself. On December 5, 2013, Ms. Nunez filed a Motion to Reset Hearing on Petition for Payment of Compensation citing difficulties in effecting service on SHS.[3] The motion requested service on SHS through any suitable employee and prayed that the court grant a new hearing date. On December 6, 2013, the trial court granted Ms. Nunez's request and the hearing date on Ms. Nunez's summary proceeding was reset to January 22, 2014.

Ms. Nunez's Motion to Reset did not include, as an exhibit or attachment, her original Petition for Payment of Compensation. Further, Ms. Nunez's Motion to Reset did not set forth the nature of her claims against SHS. SHS was ultimately [14-668 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] served with Ms. Nunez's Motion to Reset on December 16, 2013. The sheriff's return indicated that the sheriff's deputy did not make personal service on SHS's registered agent, but instead, " drop service [on] office worker." The sheriff's return specifically indicates that the Motion to Reset was served on SHS, but the original Petition for Payment of Compensation was not. Ms. Nunez does not contest the fact that the petition was not served on SHS.

On January 22, 2014, Ms. Nunez appeared in First Parish Court in SHS's absence. Ms. Nunez testified that she had previously worked for SHS as a dishwasher in a restaurant. SHS subsequently assigned her to work in a hotel in St. Tammany Parish as a housekeeper. Ms. Nunez testified that SHS told her she would be paid $12 dollars per hour for her work in this position.[4] Ms. Nunez logged her hours both at work and on a personal ledger. According to her testimony, she worked 62 hours for SHS over a period of eight days. Ms. Nunez reasoned that she was owed over $700 for her work for SHS at the ...


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