FROM FIRST CITY COURT OF NEW ORLEANS NO. 2015-04904, SECTION
"A" Honorable Monique G. Morial, Judge
M. Galante Salvador I. Bivalacqua GALANTE & BIVALACQUA
LLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, BRUCE MACON MOORE.
Renee Palowsky Palowsky Law, LLC COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, AMY KNOWER.
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Dennis R.
Bagneris, Sr., Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Regina Bartholomew
Woods, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins
R. BAGNERIS, SR. JUDGE
appeal involves the ownership of a beloved pet, Abby, and the
related issues of support and care. Following a two-day bench
trial on the merits, the First City Court found in favor of
plaintiff-appellee, Bruce Macon Moore, and awarded him the
use and management of the co-owned dog, Abby.
Defendant-appellant, Amy Knower, alleges that she is the sole
owner of Abby and argues on appeal the following assignments
of error: (1) the trial court erred in finding that she
failed to support her claim for full ownership; (2) the trial
court erred in finding that she co-owned Abby with Mr. Moore;
(3) the trial court erred in failing to accept the testimony
of Sheila Ford of the Mississippi Boston Terrier Rescue, that
she alone adopted Abby; (4) the trial court erred "by
stating that there was no basis in law for her to decide the
custody of a dog and then doing just that;" and (5) the
trial court erred by exercising jurisdiction over this matter
because City Courts do not have jurisdiction over partition
proceedings per Code of Civil Procedure article 4847(B).
After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment
of the trial court.
addressing the merits, we first address whether First City
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action under
La. C.C.P. art. 4847(B), which states that "city courts
shall not have jurisdiction in tutorship, curatorship,
emancipation, and partition proceedings." La. C.C.P.
art. 4843(E) provides that the jurisdiction of the city court
in New Orleans is concurrent with the district court in cases
where the amount in dispute or amount of the property
involved does not exceed $25, 000.00. Further, a partition
proceeding between co-owners must be done in
kind or by licitation,  neither of which are
appropriate in this situation involving a living animal.
disposition for dog ownership in this case was a novel issue
for the trial court. Louisiana Civil Code article 4 states
that "[w]hen no rule for a particular situation can be
derived from legislation or custom, the court is bound to
proceed according to equity. To decide equitably, resort is
made to justice, reason, and prevailing usages." In an
effort to proceed according to equity principles, the trial
relied on La. C.C. art. 802, which provides that "a
co-owner is entitled to use the thing held in indivision
according to its destination, but he cannot prevent another
co-owner from making such use of it." The trial court
also relied on La. C.C. art. 803, which states that
"when the mode of use and management of the thing held
in indivision is not determined by an agreement of all
co-owners and partition is not available, a court, upon
petition by a co-owner, may determine the use and
management." After a review of these codal articles, we
find that the trial court, in an effort to be fair to both
parties, correctly applied the laws of co-ownership and
breach of contract to the facts of this case; thus, we find
no merit in Ms. Knower's assignment of error that the
trial court's judgment should be dismissed as a nullity
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
regard to the merits, the issue before this Court is whether
the trial court manifestly erred in its findings that (1)Abby
was co-owned, and (2) that Mr. Moore "is the best person
to determine the use and management of Abby." The trial
court issued extensive and comprehensive written reasons for
judgment on April 18, 2016, that more than adequately state
the facts and explain the decision, and are stated as
In the Original Petition for Damages, the plaintiff, Bruce
Macon Moore, alleges that in the summer of 2010 he and the
defendant, Amy Knower, were in a personal relationship and
while they were living together in his home, they mutually
decided to adopt a pet. Plaintiff alleges that both parties
jointly adopted the pet, Abby, a Boston terrier from the
Mississippi Boston Terrier Rescue (MBTR) in December 2010.
Until September 2012, the parties lived together and jointly
shared expenses for the care and management of the dog, Abby.
After the parties ended their cohabitation in 2010, they
began an arrangement in which each person co-possessed, Abby.
Abby traveled between their respective residences, one week
on and one week off, exchanging on Sundays. The parties also
retained keys to each other's homes. During this time,
and from time to time they would assist each other with the
feeding and walking of Abby if either had a conflict.
For approximately two years, Mr. Moore and Ms. Knower
continued to co-possess Abby in this fashion. The parties
were very civil to each other during their breakup. They
continued to associate with the same friends, and also
socialized with each other from time to time. In spite of
their relationship status, the parties continued to spend a
lot of time together. In August of 2014, Mr. Moore and Ms.
Knower decided to give their relationship a second chance.
While the plaintiff and the defendant resumed their romantic
relationship in 2014, they did not cohabitate again. They
continued to live separately, but the couple also
co-possessed Abby according to the same schedule used during
the breakup, each still willing to aid the other in the event
of a conflict during his or her time with the dog. The
parties continued this arrangement for the care, and
management of Abby until July 2015. For approximately five
years, each party cared for Abby, expended monies on pet
supplies, medication, veterinarian expenses, food, etc.
Neither party disputes the existence of an informal and
mutual arrangement to care for Abby.
The parties amicably split again in May 2015. Although both
the plaintiff and the defendant understood the finality of
the breakup, they continued to co-possess Abby until the
arrangement came to an abrupt end during the Fourth of July
weekend in 2015. The plaintiff testified at trial that during
this holiday weekend, suddenly and without warning, Ms.
Knower refused to exchange Abby on their next exchange date
of July 9, 2015. Plaintiff tried, through email
communication, telephone calls and text messages, to convince
Ms. Knower to convert back to their arrangement, to no avail.
Throughout his testimony, Mr. Moore was adamant that it was
always the intention of the parties to jointly care for Abby
regardless of their relationship status.
Mr. Moore testified that during the course of their
relationship, the only shared expense, the only object that
both parties shared was Abby. At the time the parties lived
together, he avers that he was responsible for the payment of
his mortgage, though Ms. Knower did pay the utilities at his
home while she resided there. He also stated that they did
not share any furniture, electronics, or any other household
items; their finances were completely separate. The care of
Abby was distinct, however. Both plaintiff and defendant
provided for care, comfort, and management of the dog. Once
Amy unilaterally decided to terminate their co-possession
arrangement, Macon [Mr. Moore] was surprised and filed the
Mr. Moore testified that it was always their joint intention
to co-possess Abby. He asserts that the parties always
contemplated this because they did not want Amy's [Ms.
Knower's] prior ownership of a dog, Rocky, to negatively
affect their chances of adopting Abby. Ms. Knower had given
Rocky away to a friend, Steve Valack, prior to her
co-habitation with the plaintiff. He recalls them filling out
the application to adopt Abby together on the MTBR website.
He also testified that both parties went to Pet Smart in
Mississippi to collect Abby after the application was
approved. Before the dog's arrival, Mr. Moore purchased
various items from Pet Smart for Abby. Once Abby arrived,
both Ms. Knower and Mr. Moore interacted with the dog, and
they brought the dog to Mr. Moore's home.
To bolster his argument that the parties always intended to
jointly care for Abby, Mr. Moore called several witnesses at
trial. Steve Valack testified that he and Mr. Moore had been
friends for years and that he gladly took Rocky when Ms.
Knower sought a new home for the dog. Mr. Valack also
testified that he frequently ...