FROM ST. BERNARD 34TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT NO. 14-1484,
DIVISION "D" Honorable Kirk A. Vaughn, Judge
William L. Roberts Pro Hac Vice FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS, LLP AND
Stephen S. Kreller Katie M. Cusimano THE KRELLER LAW FIRM
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, WADE WHITE.
C. Clotworthy Christopher M. Hannan Daniel J. Dysart BAKER,
DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, COX OPERATING, LLC.
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Terri F.
Love, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins)
F. Love Judge.
appeal arises from damages to plaintiff's oyster beds
sustained during the drilling of oil wells by defendant.
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant to recoup for the
damages to his oyster beds. Defendant filed an exception of
res judicata, contending that the written releases
barred plaintiff's suit. The trial court did not accept
testimony or evidence, but granted the exception. We find
that the record is incomplete for an appellate review, as the
trial court erred by not holding a formal evidentiary
hearing. Therefore, we reverse and remand the matter for said
hearing. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is
vacated and the matter remanded.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
White, a lifetime oysterman, is the owner of multiple oyster
leases. Cox Operating, LLC ("Cox") entered into a
"Receipt and Release" for $100, 000 with Mr. White
in 2000, when Cox began drilling wells near some of his
oyster leases. Subsequently, Cox sought to drill more wells
near Mr. White's leases. In 2012, Cox negotiated another
drilling release with Mr. White for $175, 000.
April 1, 2012, Mr. White discovered Cox's pilings driven
into his oyster leases and water traffic that differed from
the agreed upon routes on ingress/egress. Mr. White then
contacted Cox, who allegedly admitted the error and promised
payment for damages. Cox removed the pilings and then
continued following the previous agreed upon ingress/egress
routes. Cox later maintained that the executed drilling
releases covered any damages caused by the pilings and extra
White then filed a Petition for Damages against Cox due to
the pilings. Cox filed a reconventional demand for breach of
contract of settlement/compromise, declaratory judgment, and
attorney's fees/costs. Cox also filed peremptory
exceptions of res judicata and no right of action
and sought expedited consideration from the trial court. The
trial court heard oral argument, but did not accept live
testimony or evidence. After taking the matter under
advisement, the trial court granted Cox's exception of
res judicata and denied the exception of no right of
action. Mr. White's devolutive appeal followed.
filed a Motion to Dismiss Mr. White's appeal, asserting
that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the
judgment was not final and appealable. Cox avers that La.
C.C.P. art. 1915(B) applies to the judgment because its
reconventional demand remains, which would require a
designation by the trial court that the judgment is final and
appealable. Cox's contention lack merit.
judgment that determines the merits in whole or in part is a
final judgment." La. C.C.P. art. 1841. La. C.C.P. art.
When a court renders a partial judgment or partial summary
judgment or sustains an exception in part, as to one or more
but less than all of the claims, demands, issues, or theories
against a party, whether in an original demand,
reconventional demand, cross-claim, third-party claim, or
intervention, the judgment shall not constitute a final
judgment unless it is designated as a final ...