United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
LANCE M. AFRICK, District Judge.
The Court has before it (1) supplemental briefs from the parties "addressing the potential availability of attorney's fees pursuant to [the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act ("LUTPA")] in the present circumstances of this case, " and (2) defendants' motion in limine to exclude evidence pertaining to plaintiff's damages. The issues raised in these materials are now ripe for decision.
In its complaint, plaintiff asserts a claim pursuant to LUTPA seeking injunctive relief, damages, defendants' profits, treble damages, and attorney's fees. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants with respect to the availability of actual damages pursuant to LUTPA because plaintiff failed to submit "any evidence of quantified actual losses."
LUTPA authorizes a private right of action "to recover actual damages" and authorizes an award of "reasonable attorney fees and costs" only "[i]n the event that damages are awarded." La. Rev. Stat. § 51:1409(A). Accordingly, in light of the summary judgment in defendants' favor with respect to actual damages, the Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs regarding "whether LUTPA authorizes any other relief that might support an award of attorney's fees." The Court has received those briefs, as well as defendants' motion in limine, and now addresses the issues raised therein.
A. Availability of Attorney's Fees Pursuant to LUTPA
In their supplemental memorandum, defendants contend that the grant of summary judgment as to actual damages pursuant to LUTPA is fatal to the availability of attorney's fees pursuant to that statute. In its memorandum, plaintiff offers three arguments why it may yet recover attorney's fees pursuant to LUTPA: (1) it may win injunctive relief; (2) it may receive "general damages for the loss of goodwill caused by infringement;" and (3) it can prove actual loss in the form of lost sales. The Court addresses each argument in turn.
1) Injunctive Relief
a) Availability of Injunctive Relief to Private Parties Pursuant to LUTPA
As a threshold matter, the parties dispute whether injunctive relief is available to private litigants pursuant to LUTPA. "When adjudicating claims for which state law provides the rules of decision, [the Court is] bound to apply the law as interpreted by the state's highest court." Barfield v. Madison County, 212 F.3d 269, 271-72 (5th Cir. 2000). "In the absence of a determinative decision by" the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Court must make an " Erie guess" and "employ Louisiana's civilian methodology in the same manner as would" that court. Boyett v. Redland Ins. Co., 741 F.3d 604, 607 (5th Cir. 2014). The Court first looks "to Louisiana's Constitution, its codes, and statutes." Id. The Court may also be "guided by decisions rendered by the Louisiana appellate courts, particularly when numerous decisions are in accord on a given issue-i.e., jurisprudence constante -but" the Court is "not strictly bound by them." See id. at 607-08 (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted).
The Louisiana Supreme Court has not decided whether private litigants may obtain injunctive relief pursuant to LUTPA, so the Court turns to the text of the statute. LUTPA expressly authorizes the Louisiana Attorney General to "bring an action for injunctive relief in the name of the state, " La. Rev. Stat. § 51:1407(A), and expressly authorizes private parties to bring an action "to recover actual damages, " § 51:1409(A). Based on this statutory framework, a long line of Louisiana circuit courts of appeals have held that "the right to injunctive relief under LUTPA is available solely to the state through the Attorney General." Hurricane Fence Co. v. Jensen Metal Prods., Inc., 119 So.3d 683, 688 (La.App. 5 Cir. 2013) (emphasis added); see also Family Res. Grp., Inc. v. La. Parent Magazine, 818 So.2d 28, 33-34 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2001); Lafreniere Park Found. v. Friends of Lafreniere Park, Inc., 698 So.2d 449, 453 (La.App. 5 Cir. 1997), writ denied, 703 So.2d 1312 (La. 1997); Monroe Med. Clinic, Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 522 So.2d 1363, 1365 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1988); Michaelson v. Motwani, 372 So.2d 726, 728 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1979) ("Under this law, the state alone is entitled to injunctive relief."); accord L-3 Communications Westwood Corp. v. Robichaux, No. 06-0279, 2007 WL 756528, at *10 (E.D. La. Mar. 8, 2007) (Lemmon, J.) (citing Family Res. Grp., 818 So.2d at 33).
In light of this consensus in the Louisiana circuit courts of appeals, the Court predicts that the Louisiana Supreme Court would conclude that LUTPA does not allow private litigants to obtain injunctive relief. Accordingly, as a matter of law plaintiff cannot obtain injunctive relief pursuant to LUTPA.
b) Availability of Attorney's Fees to LUTPA Injunction Winner
Even if plaintiff could obtain an injunction pursuant to LUTPA, an injunction is not an award of damages. Plaintiff cites no cases holding that an award of injunctive relief alone amounts to an award of damages which is a prerequisite to receipt of an award of attorney's fees pursuant to LUTPA. La. Rev. Stat. § 51:1409(A) (emphasis added); cf. Cheramie Servs., Inc. v. Shell Deepwater Prod., Inc., 35 So.3d 1053, 1058 (La. 2010) (explaining that "a plaintiff who obtains a judgment for damages pursuant to [LUTPA] is entitled to an award for attorney fees and costs") (emphasis added). Nor does plaintiff explain how proof of an injury sufficient to support an injunction necessarily implies "that the more prosaic form of damages - actual damages' - must also exist" in any particular ...