ALICE M. ALDRIDGE
SHIVA A. KUMAR AKULA, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF AND SHIVA KUMAR AKULA, LLC
ON REHEARING ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 732-064, DIVISION "M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING
DEBORAH A. VILLIO, ATTORNEY AT LAW, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT
Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and Hans J. Liljeberg
HANS J. LILJEBERG, JUDGE
This case is before the Court on an application for rehearing filed by defendants, Shiva A. Kumar Akula, individually and on behalf of/and Shiva Kumar Akula, LLC ("Dr. Akula"). Upon review of the application, Dr. Akula correctly directs this Court's attention to La. C.C.P. art. 3612, which provides that an appeal may be taken as a matter of right from an order or judgment relating to a preliminary or final injunction. Accordingly, we grant Dr. Akula's application for rehearing and consider the merits of his appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court granting a permanent injunction from eviction in favor of plaintiff, Alice M. Aldridge ("Ms. Aldridge").
Assignment of Error
On appeal, Dr. Akula argues that the district court erred in finding that a valid oral lease existed between the parties, and thus, erred in granting a permanent injunction enjoining Dr. Akula from evicting Ms. Aldridge.
A lease is a contract by which one party, the lessor, binds himself to give to the other party, the lessee, the use and enjoyment of a thing for a term in exchange for a rent that the lessee binds himself to pay. La. C.C. art. 2668. A lease may be made orally or in writing. La. C.C. art. 2681. Three elements absolutely necessary to the contract of a lease are the thing, the price and the consent. La. C.C. art. 2670; Richard v. Hall, 03-1488 (La. 4/23/04), 874 So.2d 131, 144. While the price need not be in money but may consist of other considerations, it must be either certain or determinable through a method agreed by the parties. La. C.C. arts. 2675 and 2676; Daigle v. Vanderpool, 02-2005 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/27/03), 858 So.2d 552, 556. The lease shall be for a term, the duration of which may be agreed to by the parties or supplied by the law, but may not exceed 99 years. La. C.C. arts. 2678 and 2679.
Dr. Akula asserts on appeal that the district court erred in finding a valid oral lease between the parties. Specifically, Dr. Akula asserts that he did not consent to any agreement with Ms. Aldridge allowing her to reside at the Clearview Parkway property for her lifetime in exchange for the care and maintenance of the property. In the alternative, Dr. Akula maintains that even if he orally granted Ms. Aldridge residence at the Clearview Parkway property for her lifetime, such right is a limited personal servitude of habitation that is required to be in writing, and thus, is unenforceable.
At the hearings for the preliminary and permanent injunctions, Ms. Aldridge, Dr. Akula, and Jamie Akula testified. Ms. Aldridge testified that she was 74 years old at the time of the hearing. She explained that she helped Dr. Akula start his business and that Dr. Akula acquired the Clearview Parkway property at auction for $60, 000.00. Ms. Aldridge testified that some time in 1999, she and Dr. Akula reached an agreement regarding the Clearview Parkway property. Ms. Aldridge testified that Dr. Akula came to her home and offered to let her reside at the property for the remainder of her lifetime so long as she renovated the run-down property, cared for and maintained the property. Ms. Aldridge renovated the property upon moving in, including purchasing a new roof, plumbing and flooring. Then, in 2005, the property sustained three to four feet of water damage in Hurricane Katrina, requiring the property to be fully gutted and renovated. Ms. Aldridge exhausted her savings and obtained an SBA Disaster Loan with the assistance of Dr. Akula. Ms. Aldridge admitted into evidence a notarized letter, signed by her and Dr. Akula, wherein both parties acknowledged the existence of an option to purchase the property so that she could obtain the SBA loan in her name. Ms. Aldridge further explained that Dr. Akula did not transfer ownership of the property to her at that time because he stated the property would in the end revert to Dr. Akula's children anyway. Ultimately, Ms. Aldridge testified that she spent $75, 000.00 in savings and obtained an SBA loan in the amount of $27, 000.00 to repair and make improvements to the property post-Hurricane Katrina and admitted into evidence receipts for the repairs to the home. In addition to renovations, repairs, and maintenance of the property, Ms. Aldridge testified that she paid the property taxes through the preceding year as well as flood and homeowner's insurance on the property. She explained that she did not pay a monthly sum of rent as she paid to repair and maintain the property, therefore increasing the value of the property.
Jamie Akula corroborated Ms. Aldridge's testimony that she was present at the time Ms. Aldridge and Dr. Akula reached an oral agreement that Ms. Aldridge reside at the property until she died in exchange for Ms. Aldridge's upkeep of the property. Jamie Akula further testified that her mother twice renovated the property and insured the property. She further corroborated Ms. Aldridge's testimony that the property was unlivable following Hurricane Katrina and that Dr. Akula took her mother to apply for a SBA loan.
Dr. Akula testified that he acquired with separate funds the property located at 3701 Clearview Parkway in 1994 or 1995 at auction. Prior to Ms. Aldridge occupying the property, Dr. Akula rented the property for $900.00 per month. Dr. Akula categorically denied entering into any agreement with Ms. Aldridge to rent the property. He testified, rather, that Ms. Aldridge came to reside at the property at his wife's request and that Ms. Aldridge never paid rent. He further testified that he never told Ms. Aldridge that she could purchase the property. Dr. Akula testified that he spent $20, 000.00 to $30, 000.00 renovating the property prior to Hurricane Katrina. He additionally testified that he did not observe any damage to the property post-Hurricane Katrina. Although acknowledging his signature on the letter relating to the SBA loan obtained by Ms. ...