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Noel v. Noel

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 27, 2015

THEODULE P. NOEL, JR., ET AL.
v.
THEODULE PIERRE NOEL, SR., ET AL

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Page 404

APPEAL fro THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF VERMILION, NO. 2013-96657. HONORABLE THOMAS R. DUPLANTIER, DISTRICT JUDGE.

R. Chadwick Edwards, Jr., Edwards & Edwards, Abbeville, LA, COUNSEL FOR: Defendants/Appellees - Theodule Pierre Noel, Sr. and Samuel Noel.

Paul Joseph Hebert, Ottinger Hebert, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR: Intervenor/Appellee - C. Noel as Executrix of Succession of Irene Joyce Trahan Noel.

Ralph Edward Kraft, Kraft Gatz LLC, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR: Plaintiffs/Appellants - Theodule P. Noel, Jr., Christine Noel Devenport, and Catherine A. Noel.

Stephen Gary McGoffin, Durio, McGoffin, Stagg & Ackermann, P.C., Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR: Defendants/Appellees - Samuel Shuffler, M.D. and Ross Hebert.

Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R. Cooks, and Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judges.

OPINION

Page 405

[15-37 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] THIBODEAUX, Chief Judge.

Plaintiffs-Appellants Theodule P. Noel, Jr., Catherine Noel, and Christine Noel Devenport, who are siblings, brought an action against Defendants-Appellees Theodule P. Noel, Sr. and Samuel J. Noel, their father and brother, to revoke certain sales of property executed by Appellees. Appellants are legatees in the will of Irene Noel, their mother, and were to inherit those properties that were sold. Appellees entered

Page 406

into the sales during the life of Mrs. Noel using a power of attorney she executed which named Samuel J. Noel as mandatary. Appellants allege the power of attorney was not authentic and that their mother lacked capacity to execute the power of attorney. Appellants further amended their petition to request the cancellation of certain farm leases in which their parents were lessees. In his answer and reconventional demand, Theodule Noel, Sr., Appellee and Appellants' father, requested that several inter vivos donations made to Appellants be revoked for ingratitude.

Amongst several other motions and legal issues, the trial court most notably determined that Appellants had no right of action to bring suit. However, the trial court also granted summary judgment on the issue of authenticity, finding the power of attorney to be authentic, did not rule on the issue of the farm leases, granted an exception of prescription as to one of the third party purchasers, Dr. Samuel Schuffler, and dismissed Theodule Noel, Sr.'s request for revocation of donations as prescribed. Both Appellants and Appellees appeal the trial court's judgment. On appeal, we reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings.

[15-37 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] I.

ISSUES

This Court will consider:

(1) whether Appellants have a cause of action to rescind sales that were effectuated using an allegedly invalid power of attorney?
(2) whether the trial court erred in entering a no right of action, on its own motion, dismissing Appellants' suit?
(3) whether the trial court erred in denying Appellees' motion to strike affidavits for lack of personal knowledge?
(4) whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment as to the authenticity of the power of attorney?
(5) whether the trial court erred in granting Dr. Samuel Schuffler's exception of prescription?
(6) whether the trial court erred in denying Appellees' motion in limine asserting a Daubert challenge to the testimony of Dr. Ronald Lahasky?
(7) whether the trial court erred in denying Appellants' motion for leave to file a third supplemental and amended petition?
(8) whether the trial court erred in denying Catherine A. Noel's motion for leave to intervene in her capacity as executrix?
(9) whether the trial court erred in dismissing the breach of farm lease claims?
(10) whether the trial court erred in finding that Theodule Noel, Sr.'s reconventional demand, attempting to revoke inter vivos donations, had prescribed?

II.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The allegations made by both parties to this suit center around a power of attorney executed in 2006 and the sales of properties pursuant to that instrument. Mrs. Irene Joyce Trahan Noel (" Mrs. Noel" ), now deceased, and Mr. [15-37 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] Theodule P. Noel, Sr. (" Mr. Noel" ) were married and had four children of the marriage: Theodule P. Noel, Jr., Christine Noel Devenport, Catherine A. Noel, and Samuel J. Noel. Mr. and Mrs. Noel prepared last wills and testaments in 2005. Those documents established

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that Theodule Noel, Jr., Christine Devenport, and Catherine Noel were to receive certain parcels of property according to Mrs. Noel's will, while Samuel Noel would receive property according to Mr. Noel's will. Mrs. Noel allegedly executed a power of attorney, dated January 12, 2006, purportedly giving her son, Samuel Noel, authority to conduct various acts on her behalf, including the sale and transfer of property. In addition to their wills, Mr. and Mrs. Noel had previously made several inter vivos donations of property to their children, then executed farm lease agreements related to those properties, which established their children as lessors and Mr. and Mrs. Noel as lessees.

In 2007, Mrs. Noel suffered a stroke, after which her health steadily declined. The parties disagree about the status of Mrs. Noel's health prior to her stroke. However, Appellants allege that beginning in December 2005, Mrs. Noel began experiencing a mental decline, which was exhibited by confusion, lack of awareness and memory, as well as her continual inability to dress and bathe herself. Appellants filed a petition for interdiction of Mrs. Noel on May 9, 2011. Service was not effectuated on Mrs. Noel within the requisite time and the proceedings were not advanced.

Between 2008 and 2011, Samuel Noel, via power of attorney, and Mr. Noel executed several sales of Mr. and Mrs. Noel's property. Those sales were made to Samuel Noel himself, his wife, Pamela Andrepont Noel, Ross Hebert, and Dr. Samuel Schuffler. The properties sold included those that Mrs. Noel had previously indicated in her will would be donated mortis causa to her other three [15-37 La.App. 3 Cir. 4] children. Furthermore, Samuel Noel, via power of attorney, and Mr. Noel sublet the leased farm property belonging to Appellants to third parties, allegedly in contradiction of the lease agreement.

Mrs. Noel died on January 19, 2012. Her succession was opened on January 30, 2012, in a separate proceeding with Judge Marilyn Castle, but was not under administration. In that proceeding, Judge Castle appointed Catherine Noel as Executrix on April 8, 2013. Appellants initiated the current suit on January 15, 2013, to cancel the real estate transactions, alleging they were executed using an invalid power of attorney. Appellants asserted that the power of attorney could not have been signed on the day it is dated, as well as that Mrs. Noel lacked capacity at that time to sign a power of attorney. Appellants then filed a first supplemental and amended petition to cancel the farm leases for breach of the lease agreements, and to recover Farm Service Agency (FSA) payments and crop revenues. In his answer, Mr. Noel filed a reconventional demand seeking the revocation of inter vivos donations he made to Appellants between 1986 and 2003. Mr. Noel listed twelve acts of ingratitude committed by Appellants that he believed constituted cruel treatment and grievous injury sufficient to revoke the donations.

During the course of several hearings, the trial court made a number of rulings and took issues under advisement. Ultimately, the trial court: (1) entered a no right of action, finding that Appellants were not the proper parties to rescind the power of attorney; (2) granted summary judgment and determined the power of attorney was authentic and signed on January 12, 2006; (3) granted Dr. Samuel Schuffler's exception of prescription and dismissed all claims against him; (4) denied Appellees' motion in limine requesting a Daubert ...


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