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Green v. ABC Rentals

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 21, 2017

WANDA GREEN Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
ABC RENTALS (JANE SURRATT) Defendants-Appellants

         Appealed from the Monroe City Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 2015CV03675 Honorable Tammy Deon Lee, Judge

          STEPHEN ADAM NORTH Counsel for Appellants.

          WANDA GREEN In Proper Person.

          Before WILLIAMS, DREW, and STONE, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         Appellant, Jan Surratt, doing business as ABC Rentals, appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Appellee, Wanda Green, awarding Green $18, 500 in damages. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 1, 2014, Wanda Green ("Green") entered into a contract with Jan Surratt, doing business as ABC Rentals ("Surratt"), [1] to lease a residential property at 1202 S. 5th Street in Monroe, Louisiana ("the property"). The lease required Green to pay monthly rent of $500. A week after Green executed the lease, she and her four children moved into the property. During the time she occupied the property, Green made numerous complaints regarding the property's condition, including roach infestation, a leaking roof, clogged drains, and rotted floors.

         On November 12, 2015, Green filed a petition against Surratt in Monroe City Court seeking $5, 000 in damages. In the petition, Green asserted "[s]ince beginning my lease with Mrs. Surratt we have not been able to live comfortably in what we are renting. Nothing has worked properly and the roof has leaked consistently for over a year causing damages and pain and suffering." According to Green, Surratt only "patched things up, " and never fixed the underlying issues with the property, and as a result, she and her children were forced to live in an uninhabitable property.

         On December 5, 2015, less than a month after Green filed her petition, Surratt sent Green notice to vacate the property. Green and her children moved out of the property two days later.

         On January 25, 2016, Surratt, represented by attorney Stephen A. North ("North"), filed an answer denying the allegations in Green's petition. On May 31, 2016, North received notice by certified mail that a trial on the matter was set for July 12, 2016 ("notice of trial").

         On July 12, 2016, neither North nor Surratt was present for trial, and the trial court proceeded in their absence. After hearing the evidence presented by Green, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Green. The trial court awarded Green $10, 000 in general damages, and $8, 500 in rental payments. On August 4, 2016, the trial court signed a final judgment in the matter and notice of judgment was served on North.

         On August 11, 2016, North, on behalf of Surratt, filed a motion for new trial arguing the judgment is contrary to the law and evidence. In the motion, North asserted Surratt was not at fault for their failure to appear for trial. North acknowledged he received notice of trial, but claimed, through "error and inadvertence, " the trial date ...


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