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Kushi Healthcare, L.L.C. v. St. James Behavioral Health Hosp., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 5, 2015

KUSHI HEALTHCARE, L.L.C.
v.
ST. JAMES BEHAVIORAL HEALTH HOSPITAL, INC

Page 1193

Appealed from the19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana. Case No. C607384. The Honorable Timothy E. Kelley, Judge Presiding.

Cody M. Martin, Gonzales, Louisiana; Thomas M. Lockwood, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Defendant/Appellant, St. James Behavioral Health Hospital, Inc.

Brian F. Blackwell, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Plaintiff/Appellee, Kushi Healthcare, L.L.C.

BEFORE: GUIDRY, THERIOT, AND DRAKE, JJ. GUIDRY, J. CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1194

[2015 0007 La.App. 1 Cir. 2] THERIOT, J.

The Appellant, St. James Behavioral Health Hospital, Inc. (St. James), appeals the trial court's award of attorney's fees for an eviction proceeding as excessive and improper. The Appellee, Kushi Healthcare, LLC (Kushi) answered the appeal, challenging the trial court's denial of damages allegedly caused to the property by St. James; the trial court's denial of rental payments through the term of the lease; the trial court's denial of late fees for each month of past due rental payments; and the trial court's denial of attorney's fees for its suit to recover for alleged damages to the property. Kushi also sought to recover the additional costs and attorney's fees it had incurred on the appeal of this matter. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In April of 2004, Kushi leased 7600 square feet of office space located at 923 Executive Park, Suites 9 through 14, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from Executive Park Management, Inc. (Executive Park). In January of 2011, St. James subleased 7300 square feet of the Executive Park office space from Kushi (leased premises). Paragraph 2 of the Sublease provides that " [a]ll terms and conditions that are spelled out in the Prime lease ... will guide this sublease except the base term rent and the monthly rent, which is spelled out in this agreement." The term of the Sublease was from January 1, 2011 through June 9, 2013, with a monthly base rent of $3,300.00. Pursuant to a Memorandum of

Page 1195

Understanding, St. James was not required to pay for utilities, janitorial services, and maintenance services of the leased space.

The Sublease and the Memorandum of Understanding were signed on behalf of Kushi and St. James by Gopinath Gopalam, who was the sole member and manager of Kushi, and the CEO, CFO, board member, and a thirty-five per cent owner of St. James. Gopalam was the party responsible [2015 0007 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] for paying St. James' rent to Kushi. Gopalam was removed from his positions at St. James in September of 2011.

During the transition period following Gopalam's removal, St. James failed to pay its October 2011 rent. On October 14, 2011, Kushi sent a certified letter to St. James indicating that rent was past due for October and demanded immediate payment in the amount of $3,300.00, along with late fees in the amount of $165.00. St. James mailed the October 2011 and November 2011 rent on November 3, 2011. Kushi refused to accept the late payment.

On November 30, 2011, Kushi delivered a Notice to Vacate to St. James via hand delivery. St. James attempted to pay the rent again on December 4, 2011, and Kushi again rejected payment. On December 6, 2011, Kushi filed a Rule to Evict St. James, seeking all past due rent and late fees from October 1, 2011 until evicted, along with all damages, costs, and attorney fees. Following a hearing, the trial court severed the claims for rent, damages, and attorney fees from the eviction proceeding and granted Kushi's rule to evict. St. James filed a motion for suspensive appeal, which the trial court dismissed on Kushi's motion, and this court reinstated.

St. James evacuated the leased premises on September 24, 2012. Thereafter, on September 26, 2012, when St. James' suspensive appeal was called for oral argument before this court, counsel for St. James advised counsel for Kushi that St. James had vacated the premises, and announced that St. James desired to dismiss its appeal. St. James' appeal was formally dismissed by order of this court dated October 24, 2012.

The parties thereafter filed a pre-trial order, wherein Kushi asserted that the December 19, 2011 judgment entitled it to rental payments and late fees from October 1, 2011, damages, costs, and attorney fees. Additionally, [2015 0007 La.App. 1 Cir. 4] Kushi asserted that following St. James's evacuation of the leased premises, it discovered that the premises had been damaged and sought the cost of repairing the damages to the leased property. In response, St. James argued that Kushi was not entitled to rental payments through the end of the lease term because Kushi had evicted St. James, and Kushi was not entitled to late fees because Kushi had refused to accept St. James' attempts at paying rent after the October 14, 2011 letter; that St. James was not liable for the alleged damages ...


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