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The Marietta Trust v. Jr. Logging Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 11, 2017

THE MARIETTA TRUST AND THE WARREN TRUST
v.
JR. LOGGING INC., FAIR HILLS FARM LLC, JERRY AVANTS, JR., THOMAS KEATY, JR., AND XYZ INSURANCE COMPANY

         On Appeal from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Tangipahoa State of Louisiana No. 2013-000751

          Cecily Salley Covington, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiffs/ Appellees The Marietta Trust and The Warren Trust

          Charles M. Reid Amite, Louisiana and Donna U. Grodner Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendants/ Appellees and Cross-Claimants Fair Hills Farm, LLC and Thomas Keaty, Jr.

          Maureen O. Sullivan Jean Ann Billeaud Jenna Harris Lafayette, Louisiana Counsel for Defendants/ Appellants and Cross Claimants JR Logging Inc., Jerry Avants, Jr. and Indemnity Ins. Co. of North America

          Honorable Elizabeth P. Wolfe, Judge Presiding Cecily Salley Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees Covington, Louisiana The Marietta Trust and The

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., GUIDRY, AND McCLENDON, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         This is an appeal from a judgment that denied a motion to enforce a settlement agreement in a timber dispute. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 7, 2013, the plaintiffs, the Marietta Trust[1] and the Warren Trust[2] filed a petition for wrongful timber cutting and for property damage, penalties, interest, costs, and attorney fees. In their petition, the plaintiffs named as defendants, Fair Hills Farms, LLC and Thomas Keaty, Jr. (the Fair Hills defendants). Also named as defendants were J.R. Logging, Inc., Jerry Avants, Jr., and J.R. Logging's insurer, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America (the J.R. Logging defendants). Fair Hills owns property adjacent to the plaintiffs' property in Tangipahoa Parish, and the plaintiffs alleged that Fair Hills, along with its agent Mr. Keaty, wrongfully cut timber on the plaintiffs' property. The plaintiffs also alleged that J.R. Logging and Mr. Avants were hired by Fair Hills and Mr. Keaty to cut the timber on the Fair Hills property and that J.R. Logging and Mr. Avants wrongfully cut the plaintiffs' timber. Thereafter, the Fair Hills defendants and the J.R. Logging defendants filed cross claims against each other.

         On November 9, 2015, the trial court held a status conference, at which time the terms of a potential settlement were discussed. The plaintiffs and the J.R. Logging defendants proposed a settlement whereby the J.R. Logging defendants would pay to the plaintiffs $20, 000.00 in consideration for a dismissal of all claims against the J.R. Logging defendants and the Fair Hills defendants. The proposed settlement also included a dismissal of the cross claims between the defendants. On November 13, 2015, Charles Reid, counsel for the Fair Hills defendants, sent the following email to Cecily Salley, counsel for the plaintiffs, and to Maureen Sullivan, counsel for the J.R. Logging defendants:

After much thought, my clients have agreed to the settlement proposal by the JR Logging/Avants Defendants whereby the entire settlement amount will be paid by the JR Logging/Avants Defendants and no payment made will be made by Fair Hills Farms LLC and Thomas Keaty Jr. This settlement requires all parties ... to dismiss the claims against each other, including the Cross Claims between the JR Logging/Avants defendants and the Fair Hills Farms/Keaty Defendants. It is my understanding that Maureen will prepare the settlement agreement, releases and dismissal. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

         Ms. Sullivan responded by email that same day to Mr. Reid, with a copy to Ms. Salley, stating:

Thank you for the information Chuck. We will prepare the Settlement Agreement per your email. All claims, all parties ...

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