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Thompson v. Beagle

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

August 16, 2017

ELDRIDGE THOMPSON, JR.
v.
MAX BEAGLE, PROGRESSIVE PALOVERDE INSURANCE COMPANY, DAVID CASSE, AND GEICO INDEMNITY COMPANY ET AL.

         APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-11152, DIVISION "N-8" Honorable Ethel Simms Julien, Judge

          Wayne W. Yuspeh WAYNE W. YUSPEH, APLC 3000 West Esplanade Avenue, Suite 301 Metairie, LA 70002 -AND-Michael A. Fenasci FENASCI & ASSOCIATES, APLC 3000 W. Esplanade Avenue, Suite 301 Metairie, LA 70002 COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Lance J. Robinson 4051 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Suite 403 Metairie, LA 70002 COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore, Judge Terrel J. Broussard, Pro Tempore

          MARION F. EDWARDS, PRO TEMPORE JUDGE

          In this negligence action, the appellant, David Casse, plaintiff-in-reconvention, appeals the trial court's October 12, 2016 judgment granting an exception of prescription in favor of the appellee, Carrie Thiele, defendant-in-reconvention.[1] For the reasons that follow, we find that the judgment on appeal lacks necessary decretal language and is, thus, not a valid, final, appealable judgment. Consequently, this court lacks jurisdiction. We dismiss the appeal without prejudice and remand this matter to the trial court so that a valid, final judgment may be rendered and signed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 25, 2014, a multi-motor vehicle accident occurred in Jefferson Parish on Interstate-10 East at or near the Bonnabel Boulevard exit and the interchange with Interstate-610. It is alleged that the vehicle owned and operated by Max Beagle struck the rear end and then the passenger side of the motor vehicle owned and operated by Eldridge Thompson, Jr. Following impact, Thompson's vehicle came to rest perpendicular across two travel lanes of the interstate. Thereafter, the motorcycle owned and operated by the appellant, David Casse, struck Thompson's vehicle.

         On November 23, 2015, Thompson filed suit against Max Beagle, Progressive Paloverde Insurance Company, David Casse, and GEICO Indemnity Company seeking to recover damages for injuries he received in the accident. Casse was served with Thompson's petition for damages on April 22, 2016, and on June 2, 2016, he filed an answer and defenses. Nowhere in his answer and defenses does Casse refer to the appellee, Carrie Thiele. According to the record, on June 29, 2016, Casse filed a reconventional demand and third party demand naming the appellee, Carrie Thiele, as a defendant-in-reconvention.[2]

         In his reconventional demand and third party demand, Casse avers that shortly after the collision occurred between the Beagle and Thompson vehicles, a vehicle operated by Shahid Chaudhry stopped in the middle of the interstate alongside the Thompson and Beagle vehicles in order to render assistance. Carrie Thiele was riding as a guest passenger in Chaudhry's vehicle. Thereafter, Casse, who was operating his motorcycle in an easterly direction on I-10, claims that he was following behind another vehicle, which came to an abrupt stop when it approached the disabled Thompson vehicle that was blocking two of the travel lanes. As he attempted to avoid hitting the stopped vehicle by swerving around it into the right lane, Casse contends that his motorcycle struck Thiele as she existed Chaudhry's vehicle and stepped into the open lane of traffic. According to Casse, when he collided with Thiele, he was thrown from his motorcycle, which thereafter struck the door of the Thompson vehicle, forming the basis of Thompson's suit against him. Additionally, Casse contends that he sustained severe injuries requiring multiple surgeries as a result of his collision with Thiele, giving rise to his claims against her.

         Thiele responded to the claims made by Casse against her in his reconventional demand and third party demand by filing a peremptory exception of prescription. Thiele alleged that at the time Casse's third party claim against her was filed, more than one year had passed from the original accident; hence, Casse's claims against her had prescribed. Specifically, Thiele averred that Casse's claims against her were not incidental to the main demand (the Thompson suit), but arose out of a completely separate accident involving completely separate and distinct facts. Casse opposed Thiele's exception on the ground that, pursuant to Article 1067 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, his claims against Thiele were incidental to the main demand and were timely filed within 90 days of his being served with the original demand.

         A hearing on Thiele's exception was held on October 7, 2016. On October 12, 2016, the trial court issued a judgment, without written reasons, granting the exception. It is from this judgment that Casse timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         "Before considering the merits in any appeal, appellate courts have the duty to determine sua sponte whether subject matter jurisdiction exits, even when the parties do not raise the issue." Moon v. City of New Orleans, 15-1092, 15-1093, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/16/16), 190 So.3d 422, 425. This court "cannot reach the merits of an appeal unless our appellate court jurisdiction has been properly invoked by a valid final judgment." Id. See also Bd. of Supervisors of La. State Univ. and Agric. and Mech. College v. Mid City Holdings, L.L.C., 14-0506, p. 2 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/15/14), 151 So.3d 908, 910. A valid final judgment is one that determines the merits in whole or in part and is identified as such by appropriate language. La. C.C.P. art. 1841, 1918. "A final appealable judgment must contain decretal language, and it must name the party in favor of whom the ruling is ordered, the party against whom the ruling is ordered, and the relief that is granted or denied." Mid-City Holdings, 14-0506, pp. 2-3, 151 So.3d at 910, quoting Palumbo v. Shapiro, 11-0769, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/14/11), 81 So.3d 923, 927. "The result being decreed must be spelled out in lucid, unmistakable language. The quality of definiteness is essential to a proper judgment." Moon, 15-1092, 15-093, p. 6, 190 So.3d at 425. "The specific relief granted should ...


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