APPEAL FROM THE BUNKIE CITY COURT PARISH OF AVOYELLES, NO. 2013-26 HONORABLE JAMES HOWARD MIXON, CITY COURT JUDGE
Dan B. McKay, Jr. Attorney at Law, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Roxann Robar
Cory P. Roy Brandon J. Scott Benjamin D. James Roy & Scott Law Offices, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/ APPELLEE: Patricia McCoy Jones
Court composed of John D. Saunders, James T. Genovese, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.
JOHN D. SAUNDERS, JUDGE
Plaintiff, Roxann Robar (hereafter "Robar"), appeals the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant, Patricia McCoy Jones (hereafter "Jones"). For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and render judgment in favor of Plaintiff.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
The facts giving rise to the instant appeal are not in dispute. Jones owned a building and business named La De Da Boutique. Robar and Jones orally agreed that Robar would purchase the building, together with the inventory within, for $35, 000. The parties did not execute a written contract. In connection with that oral agreement, Robar gave Jones a check dated December 5, 2012, for $5, 000, and requested that Jones hold the check. Jones then removed the "For Sale" sign from the property and informed a potential lessee that she would not be leasing the boutique. On December 10, 2012, Robar gave Jones permission to deposit the check. Subsequently, in late December 2012 or January 2013, Robar informed Jones that she did not wish to complete the sale and requested a return of the $5, 000. By certified mail dated March 14, 2013, Robar demanded return of the $5, 000. Jones did not return the $5, 000; Robar filed suit against Jones on April 18, 2013, for the return of the $5, 000.
A bench trial was held on November 6, 2013. At the conclusion of trial, the matter was taken under advisement. On February 12, 2014, written reasons were issued, followed by a signed judgment on April 14, 2014, which denied Robar;s claims and dismissed her suit. Robar filed a Motion for New Trial, which the trial court denied. Robar appealed. On appeal, Robar asserts the trial court committed legal error in relying on jurisprudence predating the current version of La.Civ.Code art. 2624; therefore, the trial court legally erred in finding that the $5, 000 given to Jones was forfeited under La.Civ.Code art. 2624 because the parties had no oral or written agreement designating the $5, 000 as earnest money. We find that this assertion has merit. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and render judgment in favor of Robar.
STANDARD OF REVIEW:
It is well settled in Louisiana that the findings of fact of the trial court will not be disturbed on appeal unless they are manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong. Stobart v. State, through D.O.T.D., 617 So.2d 880 (La.1993); Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La.1989); Lawson v. White, 01-1173 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/6/02); 815 So.2d 958. As long as the findings of the trial court are reasonable in light of the record, the appellate court may not reverse even if it would have weighed the evidence differently as a trier of fact. Sistler v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 558 So.2d 1106 (La.1990); Lawson, 01-1173; 815 So.2d 960-61.
On the other hand, when reviewing a question of law, the appellate court must simply decide whether the trial court was legally correct or incorrect. Jim Walter Homes, Inc. v. Jessen, 98-1685 (La.App. 3 Cir. 3/31/99); 732 So.2d 699 (citing Ducote v. City of Alexandria, 95-1269 (La.App. 3 Cir. 7/17/96); 677 So.2d 1118.) "If the trial court's decision was based on its erroneous application of law, rather that on a valid exercise of discretion, the trial court's decision is not entitled to deference by the reviewing court." Kem Search, Inc. v. Sheffield, 434 So.2d 1067, 1071-72 (La.1983); Jim Walter Homes, Inc., 98-1685, p. 5; 732 So.2d at 702. In fact, the appellate court must conduct a de novo review of the entire record when it finds a reversible error of law or manifest error. Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La.1989); Lasha v. Olin Corp., 625 So.2d 1002 (La.1993); Jim Walter Homes, Inc., 98-1685; 732 So.2d 699.
Love v. E.L. Habetz Builders, Inc., 01-1625, p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/26/02), 821 So.2d 756, 760-61. "[W]hen appellate courts find that a reversible error of law or manifest error of material fact was made in the lower court, appellate courts are required to redetermine the facts de novo from the entire record and render a judgment on the merits." Ben ...