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Constantin Land Trust v. Pitre Industries, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

July 10, 2017

CONSTANTIN LAND TRUST
v.
PITRE INDUSTRIES, L.L.C.

         Appealed from the Seventeenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Lafourche State of Louisiana Docket Number 128, 510 Honorable F. Hugh Larose, Judge

          Robert S. Reich, Jerald L. Album, Metairie, LA Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant Constantin Land Trust

          Daniel A. Cavell, Thibodaux, LA and Richard W. Martinez New Orleans, LA LLC Counsel for Defendant-Appellee Pitre Industries,

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

          GUIDRY, J.

         As part of ongoing litigation in this lease dispute, the lessor of a tract of land appeals a judgment denying its petition to evict the lessee based on the lessee's failure to timely exercise the option to renew the subject lease, and the lessee has answered the appeal.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In the fall of 2005, Constantin Land Trust ("CLT") entered into a ten-year lease agreement with Pitre Industries, LLC for the lease of 2.35 acres of land in Lafourche Parish, known as the "Texaco Dock." According to the lease agreement, the primary term of the lease began on October 1, 2005, with the lessee, Pitre Industries, being granted the option to renew the lease for two additional terms often years each.

         In December 2010, the parties executed a partial termination of the lease agreement, wherein Pitre Industries released approximately one-half of the leased property, the southern portion, which CLT, in turn, leased to a third party. Then, on October 23, 2015, CLT filed the instant action for eviction, alleging that due to Pitre Industries' failure to give timely written notice of its decision to exercise the option to renew the lease, CLT chose not to renew the lease on the retained portion of the leased property and sought return of the property. CLT further alleged that despite issuance of a notice to vacate, Pitre Industries refused to vacate and continued to occupy and use and the leased property.

         In conjunction with the petition for eviction, CLT also filed a statement notifying the trial court that other litigation was pending in a different division of the same court. In that litigation, CLT was also seeking termination of the lease, but based on Pitre Industries' alleged breach of the terms of the lease agreement.

         In response to these filings, Pitre Industries filed a motion to transfer and reassign the eviction proceeding to the same division of the trial court in which the breach of lease proceedings and other actions regarding the leased property were pending.[1] By a judgment signed December 7, 2015, the eviction action was re-allotted and transferred to the same division of the trial court in which all the prior matters involving the same parties and the leased property were pending.

         Prior to the transfer of the eviction action, Pitre Industries answered the petition for eviction raising several exceptions and affirmative defenses. After the matter was re-allotted and transferred, the trial court held a hearing on the exceptions raised by Pitre Industries and on the merits of CLT's eviction action. At the hearing, the trial court overruled the objections of lis pendens, lack of procedural capacity, and res judicata raised in the exceptions filed by Pitre Industries, but deferred ruling on the objection of no cause of action. The trial court then received testimony and documentary evidence on the merits of the eviction action, following which it took the matter under advisement.

         On May 5, 2016, the trial court issued an oral ruling denying the petition for eviction, finding as follows:

While I do find that there was a clear term in the lease and that the renewal was not filed in a timely basis under that lease, I also find that CLT, by the interference and harassment of clients and customers of Pitre's, interrupted their peaceful possession - constructively interrupted their peaceful possession. And for that reason the eviction is hereby denied.

         The trial court then signed a written judgment consistent with its oral ruling on June 14, 2016, which CLT appeals, and Pitre Industries has filed an answer to the appeal.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         Contending that the June 14, 2016 judgment is contrary to law and is manifestly erroneous, CLT alleges the following:

1) The trial court committed manifest error in denying CLT's Petition for Eviction as the evidence and testimony proved that Pitre Industries failed to provide timely written notice of its intent to renew the lease between it and CLT.
2) The trial court committed manifest error by concluding that constructive interruption of peaceful possession was grounds for denying CLT's eviction action ... when there is no ...

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