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Sandrock v. St. Bernard Parish Government

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

May 27, 2015


Page 1040

APPEAL FROM ST. BERNARD 34TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT. NO. 113-116, DIVISION " C" . Honorable Perry M. Nicosia, Judge.


William M. McGoey, Cory S. Grant, Scott M. Smith, Chalmette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.

(Court composed of Judge Max N. Tobias, Jr., Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu).


Page 1041

[2014-1019 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] Madeleine M. Landrieu, J.

St. Bernard Parish Government appeals a judgment from the trial court which awarded the plaintiff, Mr.Glenn Sandrock, $102,036.00 in property damage loss, $34,272.00 in lost rent, and $25,000.00 in general damages. For the reasons that follow, we find that the trial court did not err in finding the defendant liable, but that the trial court did err in its calculation and award of damages. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and render.


This is an appeal from a lawsuit filed by Mr. Sandrock against St. Bernard Parish Government (" SBPG" ) for damages after SBPG demolished a duplex located at 3116-18 Stacie Drive, one of approximately forty rental properties Mr. Sandrock owned in St. Bernard Parish.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the St. Bernard Parish Council passed a series of ordinances which required property owners to make timely repairs to their storm-damaged properties. Ordinance #634-12-05, passed in the weeks after the hurricane, authorized the parish " to enter private property to, in the interest of [2014-1019 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] public

Page 1042

health and safety, alter or demolish structures and remove debris found on the property." In 2006, the parish council passed Ordinance #663-07-06, which set forth requirements of owners of storm-damaged homes.[1] The ordinance required " the owner of any structure that is destroyed or damaged beyond habitability by fire, storm, natural disaster, or other natural or man made event" to accomplish the following: (1) clear the property of " all debris, mud, sludge, sediment, and other health hazardous material" within five days of being able to initially access the property; (2) secure all " exterior windows, doors, and all exterior other openings in a structure's exterior walls, roofs, eaves, and floors" within the next two days; (3) install windows and doors within sixty days of boarding up the exterior; and (4) complete repairs to exterior walls and roofs within 120 days.

On December 5, 2006, the parish council passed Resolution #162-09-06, which condemned 3,651 homes that were designated " dangerous to public health and safety" for failing to comply with the ordinances. Mr. Sandrock's property on Stacie Drive was on this condemnation list. In accordance with the resolution, a demolition placard was posted on the property informing Mr. Sandrock that the structure had been declared a " public health and safety hazard" and that " involuntary demolition" had been ordered. A condemnation notice was also posted at the Government Building and Courthouse and on the SBPG website. It was also mailed to and received by Mr. Sandrock.

[2014-1019 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] On January 12, 2007, within the time period provided in the condemnation notice, Mr. Sandrock signed a demolition appeal application. The application for appeal provided, in pertinent part,

Should an appeal be granted, said property must be gutted, cleaned and secured with proper yard maintenance within seven (7) days of the date of granting of said appeal. Upon failure to comply with all of the above referenced requirements within the seven (7) day time period, the granting of said appeal will be revoked.

Mr. Sandrock's appeal was granted the same day.

Ten days after the appeal was granted, an SBPG employee inspected the property and determined that Mr. Sandrock's property had not been cleared of debris, had not been secured, and the lawn of the property had not been maintained. Because the appeal requirements were not met, the appeal was revoked, and the property was approved for demolition. There is no evidence in the record to suggest that notice of this inspection or notice of the revocation of the appeal was sent to Mr. Sandrock.

Soon thereafter, in March of 2007, Mr. Sandrock applied for and received from SBPG a " Rebuilding Permit," and water service was restored to the Stacie Drive property. On January 15, 2008, nearly one year later, Barowka and Bonura Engineers and Consultants, a company hired by SBPG, inspected the property and took photographs which showed that the property was not cleaned and secured.

Mr. Sandrock testified at trial that sometime in January of 2008, he had received a phone call from someone who told him that SBPG was preparing to tear down the property. The caller told Mr. Sandrock that ribbons had been placed [2014-1019 La.App. 4 Cir. 4] around the house and that the gas meter had been pulled. Mr. Sandrock testified that he had " immediately, as quickly as [he] could -- it might have been a few days, a week or two days" gone to the Permits office to check on the property. Mr. Sandrock

Page 1043

testified that at that point, he was told that there were no problems with the property. He further testified that he also was told to fill out a second appeal application, which he did. This application was accepted by an SBPG employee on February 6, 2008. Unbeknownst to Mr. Sandrock and apparently unbeknownst to the SBPG employee, Mr. Sandrock's property ...

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