THOMAS D. BAYER AND LAURA D. KELLEY
STARR INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, ET AL
FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-03806,
DIVISION "B" Honorable Melvin C. Zeno, Judge.
W. Bernberg THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID W. BERNBERG, L.L.C.
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.
Peter Englande Jeffrey E. McDonald Randell E. Treadaway, T.A.
ZAUNBRECHER TREADAWAY BOLLINGER, LLC COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Sandra Cabrina
Jenkins, Judge Paula A. Brown.
CABRINA JENKINS JUDGE.
suit for damages, plaintiffs appeal the trial court's
judgments granting defendants' motion for summary
judgment and denying plaintiffs' motion for new trial.
Finding that our appellate jurisdiction has not been properly
invoked by a valid final judgment, we dismiss the appeal
without prejudice and remand this matter to the trial court.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
suit arises from a fire that occurred at the property of
Thomas Bayer, located at 7418-7422 Maple Street, where he
resides with Laura Kelley (collectively,
"plaintiffs"). On April 23, 2014, employees of
Cimarron Underground, Inc., were performing work on the gas
meter on plaintiffs' property when a gas line was cut, a
gas explosion occurred, and a resulting fire damaged
plaintiffs' house. After the fire was extinguished,
plaintiffs arrived at the house and viewed the damage.
Thereafter, plaintiffs vacated the property for several weeks
while repairs were made to the house.
April 22, 2015, plaintiffs filed a petition for damages
against Cimarron Underground, Inc., Starr Indemnity &
Liability Company, Entergy New Orleans, Inc., Entergy
Louisiana, L.L.C., and Entergy Gulf States Louisiana, Inc.
(collectively, "defendants"), alleging that
defendants' combined acts of negligence preceding the
fire caused plaintiffs to sustain emotional and physical
injuries, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of
April 27, 2016, defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment seeking the dismissal of all of plaintiffs'
claims. On August 12, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on
defendants' motion for summary judgment, which the trial
court orally granted. However, the trial court's August
15, 2016 judgment with incorporated reasons for judgment
decreed that "Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment be DENIED."
September 26, 2016, the trial court signed an order setting
aside and vacating its August 15, 2016 judgment and stating
that, "this Court erroneously executed a judgment that
was inapposite of the oral ruling and mistakenly identified
the prevailing party on the Motion for Summary Judgment as
the Plaintiff, as opposed to the
Defendants." On that same date, the trial court
rendered an "amended" judgment and reasons for
judgment, for the stated purpose of "correct[ing] errors
contained in this court's original judgment signed on
August 15, 2016", which decreed that
"Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be
September 29, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion for new trial
as to the trial court's granting defendants' motion
for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court
rendered judgment on December 6, 2016, denying
plaintiffs' motion for new trial. Subsequently,
plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal of the trial
court's December 6, 2016 judgment. This appeal followed.
reaching the merits of an appeal, this Court has a duty to
determine, sua sponte, whether our appellate court
jurisdiction has been properly invoked by a valid final
judgment. Moon v. City of New Orleans, 15-1092, p. 6
(La.App. 4 Cir. 3/16/16), 190 So.3d 422, 425; Tsegaye v.
City of New Orleans, 15-0676, p. 3 (La App. 4 Cir.
12/18/15), 183 So.3d 705, 710; Delta Staff Leasing, LLC
v. South Coast Solar, LLC, 14-1328 (La.App. 4 Cir.
9/23/15), 176 So.3d 668. "A valid judgment must be
precise, definite, and certain. The decree alone indicates
the decision. The result decreed must be spelled out in
lucid, unmistakable language. The quality of definiteness is
essential to a proper judgment." Urquhart v.
Spencer, 15-1354, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/1/16), 204
So.3d 1074, 1077, quoting Input/Output Marine Sys., Inc.
v. Wilson Greatbatch, Tech., Inc., 10-477, p.13 (La.App.
5 Cir. 10/29/10), 52 So.3d 909, 916 (internal citations
omitted). A valid final judgment must contain definitive
decretal language. Moon, 15-1092, p. 6, 190 So.3d at
425; Bd. of Supervisors of Louisiana State Univ. v. Mid
City Holdings, L.L.C., 14-0506, p. 2 (La.App. 4 Cir.
10/15/14), 151 So.3d 908, 910. Our jurisprudence holds that
the definitive decretal language necessary for a valid final
judgment has three components: (1) it must name the party in
favor of whom the ruling is ordered; (2) it must name the
party against whom the ruling is ordered; and (3) it must
state the specific relief that is granted or denied.
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