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Trichell v. Maza

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 28, 2017

BETTY BROWN TRICHELL Plaintiff-Appellant
BILLIE RAY MAZA Defendant-Appellee

         Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 2015-0805 Honorable Alvin Rue Sharp, Judge

          ROUNTREE LAW OFFICES By: James A. Rountree, Michael G. Renneisen Counsel for Appellant

          LAW OFFICE OF AMADO LEIJA By: Amado Leija, Mario Leija Counsel for Appellee

          Before DREW, PITMAN, and GARRETT, JJ.

          DREW, J.

         Plaintiff, Betty Brown Trichell ("Mrs. Trichell"), appeals from a judgment dismissing her action to reform a 2007 deed of sale of immovable property. We affirm.


         In 2007, Bill Maza[1] owned a three-bedroom, two-bath home in Columbia, Louisiana, on the Ouachita River. Maza also owned the lot next door, upon which stood a workshop structure connected to the main house by a makeshift walkway.

         Mrs. Trichell and her late husband, Ted, [2] were friends with Mr. Maza and negotiated with him to buy the property for $140, 000. According to Betty, "He [Bill] told us a hundred and ten for the house and thirty thousand for the building and the lot." An employee at Betty and Ted's mortgage company prepared a purchase agreement on July 30, 2007, which provides, in part:

The terms are property located @ 1373 Belle Cote Road, Ouachita Parish, Columbia, LA 71418
Property consists of 2 lots facing river - home is frame construction - 3 bedroom 2 bath $110, 000. Property has building on lot which is also framed. 1 acre lot building $30, 000. Total $140, 000

         This document has blanks at the bottom for the name and signature of the seller and purchaser. The blank for the seller is filled in with the handwritten printed (not cursive) name "Billie R Maza." The blanks for the purchasers are filled in with the handwritten printed (not cursive) names "Ted W Trichell" and "Betty R Brown." Next to the printed names of the purchasers, Mr. Trichell and Ms. Brown signed the document in cursive writing. However, there is no signature (cursive or otherwise) next to Mr. Maza's name, and Betty said that he was not present when this document was prepared. Attached to this purchase agreement is a map that shows some 18 lots along the river, including the two lots at issue in this case.

         On September 17, 2007, Ted Trichell and Betty Brown signed all pages of a preprinted three-page "Residential Agreement to Purchase and Sell" form that described the property on the first page as:

Property is to be sold and purchased, subject to title and zoning restrictions, servitudes of record, laws and/or ordinances affecting the property, for the sum of Home $110, 000 Building lot $30, 000 dollars. [$140, 000]

         On the third page, the document also describes the property in part as:

         Includes 1 acre lot with workshop facing river adjoining house - see appraisal All three pages of this document bear the handwritten initials "BRM" above the blank labeled "Seller's Initials, " and the initials are dated 9/17/07. According to the plaintiff, this document was filled out and signed by Betty and Ted, and then "I [Betty] took it to Bill, he read it, said okay, he signed each page, initialed each page." This document also contains the following clause:

LOAN APPLICATION: … The Buyer also agrees to provide written proof to the seller of loan pre-approval including verification of credit, employment, & funds to close, by 10/17/2007 (date), or this agreement shall be void-able at the seller's option.

         Attached to this form agreement is another preprinted form with three parts. The top part is captioned "Seller's Response to Buyer's Offer." This portion has a variety of options for the seller to respond to the buyer's offer, including acceptance, rejection, and counteroffer sections. This part is blank (no option is checked) except for the signature of Billie Ray Maza along with Maza's phone number and the date, 9/17/07. The center section, "Buyer's Response to Seller's Counter Offer, " is blank and unsigned by any party. The third part of the document, "Seller's Response to Counter Offer, " is blank except for the signature of Billie R. Maza and the date.

         The plaintiff explained that Mr. Maza gave Ted and her the legal descriptions of the two lots, and said that she faxed the descriptions to her mortgage company. She offered as evidence a fax cover sheet from October 19, 2007, referring to two attached legal descriptions; the cover sheet indicates that "Exhibit A is correct" but says "Exhibit B - we are purchasing 1 acre of this property with workshop. Thanks, Betty." Exhibit B on the following page refers to a 15.65-acre tract fronting the Ouachita River, but there is a sketch next to that legal description that depicts a nearly rectangular lot fronting 61.05 feet on the river. Betty explained that the handwriting was hers and included the information she received about the lots from Mr. Maza. She also testified that during the negotiations, she and Ted walked off the property with the defendant and that the property was bounded by survey stakes that Mr. Maza identified as the boundary markers.

         As part of the mortgage process, an appraisal of the property was done, which included photos. The photos included the shop building next to the house and show the walkway between the two structures. Betty admitted she did not see the appraisal until after the closing. Because the property was in a flood zone, a flood elevation certificate was required for the mortgage, and Mr. Maza paid $400 to have that prepared. The comments section indicates, ...

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