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Louisiana v. Chevron

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 1, 2015

STEWART TITLE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CHEVRON, U.S.A., INC., HUNTINGTON BEACH COMPANY, KEIICHI-MAR INVESTING AND LTA, INC.

APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2010-07431, DIVISION "G-11" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge

Michael R. Phillips Louis M. Grossman Brittany Buckley Salup KEAN MILLER LLP, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

Matthew Louis Pepper Rico Alvenida Wonderly and Pepper, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Paul A. Bonin, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

Judge Roland L. Belsome

In this concursus proceeding, the appellant, LTA, Inc. (LTA), appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Chevron USA, Inc. and Huntington Beach Company (collectively Chevron), entitling Chevron to money deposited into the registry of the trial court. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 14, 2010, Chevron entered into a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) with Keiichi-Mar Investing, LLC (Keiichi-Mar) for the building and associated parking structure (hereinafter referenced collectively as "the building") located at the corner of O'Keefe Avenue and Gravier Street.[1] Keiichi-Mar signed the PSA on June 9, 2010. The contract was accepted by Chevron on June 14, 2010. Under the terms of the PSA, Keiichi-Mar was required to issue a $300, 000.00 deposit after Chevron accepted and signed the agreement.[2] On June 18, 2010, Stewart Title deposited a $300, 000.00 check issued by LTA, which was not a party to the PSA, in its commercial escrow account.

A dispute over the deposit arose between Chevron and LTA, and eventually the deal fell apart. As a result, Stewart Title deposited the money into the registry of the court and initiated a concursus proceeding. The trial court subsequently granted Chevron's motion for summary judgment finding that "the facts supported the conclusion that LTA intended its check to be used and considered as Keiichi-Mar's deposit." LTA appealed and this Court reversed finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether LTA intended the $300, 000.00 check to be used as a deposit for Keiichi-Mar under the PSA.

After a trial on remand, the court rendered a judgment in favor of Chevron and awarded it the $300, 000.00 from the registry of the court. In its reasons for judgment, the trial court found that LTA deposited the check into Stewart Title's escrow account, intending it to serve as the deposit under the PSA between Chevron and Keiichi-Mar; thus, Chevron was entitled to the deposit as liquidated damages under the PSA. This appeal follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In reviewing a trial court's findings of fact, appellate court's employ a "manifest error" or "clearly wrong" standard of review. Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840, 844 (La. 1989)(citations omitted). Where there is a conflict in the testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed upon review, even though the appellate court may feel that its own evaluations and inferences are more reasonable. Id. "Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong." Id. Moreover, when findings of fact are based on determinations regarding "credibility of witnesses, the manifest error-clearly wrong standard demands great deference to the trier of fact's findings; for only the factfinder can be aware of the variations in demeanor and tone of voice that bear so heavily on the listener's understanding and belief in what is said." Id. See also Pelleteri v. Caspian Grp. Inc., 02-2141, 02-2142, pp. 6-7 (La.App. 4 Cir. 7/2/03), 851 So.2d 1230, 1235.

DISCUSSION

Although LTA raises various issues in its assignments of error, there is only one issue before the court: whether the trial court erred in concluding that "LTA, acting through Kenneth L[o]bell, deposited $300, 00.00 of its own money into Stewart Title's escrow account with the intent that it be tied to the ...


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