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Williams v. Alexander

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 2, 2017

SAVANAH WILLIAMS
v.
VINCENT ALEXANDER

         APPEAL FROM THE BREAUX BRIDGE CITY COURT PARISH OF ST. MARTIN, NO. 16-317 HONORABLE RANDY P. ANGELLE, CITY COURT JUDGE

          Randy M. Guidry Durio, McGoffin, Stagg & Ackermann COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Vincent Alexander

          Savanah Williams IN PROPER PERSON

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, D. Kent Savoie, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE

         AFFIRMED.

         The plaintiff filed suit seeking the return of a truck to which she claimed ownership. The defendant, who maintained possession of the truck, asserted that the plaintiff had transferred ownership of the vehicle to him. Following trial in city court, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff and ordered the defendant to tender possession of the truck to the plaintiff. The trial court further denied damages otherwise claimed by the parties. The defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The record indicates that the plaintiff, Savanah Williams, acquired a 1995 Chevrolet truck from the defendant, Vincent Alexander, on October 16, 2013. The title to the truck, issued on that date, lists Mrs. Williams as the owner. The parties differ on the underlying financial arrangement for the transfer of the vehicle. While Mrs. Williams contends that her husband, Calvin Paul Williams, completed carpentry work for Mr. Alexander in exchange for the truck and did so at the time of the 2013 transfer, Mr. Alexander asserts that the full extent of the expected work was not completed.

         In January 2015, and after Mr. Williams did not respond to a demand letter,[1] Mr. Alexander traveled to the Williams' home, seeking the return of the truck. With Mr. Williams working out of town, the record indicates that Mrs. Williams surrendered physical possession of the truck to Mr. Alexander. Additionally, it is unquestioned that she signed the reverse of the original title as "Seller[.]" However, as observed by the trial court, "[t]here was no Bill of Sale, there was no other act of transfer, merely [Mr. Alexander] took possession of the 'Original Title' that was issued at the time of the acquisition of the truck[.]" Mr. Williams explained that, upon his return to town, he went to see Mr. Alexander, who returned the truck to him. Mr. Williams testified that, although he asked for the return of the original title, Mr. Alexander ultimately informed him that it was lost. Mrs. Williams thereafter obtained a duplicate title to the vehicle.[2]

         After the truck was returned to Mr. and Mrs. Williams, their nephew, Phillip Williams, began using the truck. Phillip testified that, although he gave Mr. Williams $200 for the truck, he never owned the truck as he never finished paying the $300 he agreed to pay his uncle. When asked by the court, Phillip denied that he acquired title to the truck or that a bill of sale was completed. Instead, Phillip explained that Mr. Alexander called him and told him: "he got the [t]itle for the truck . . . Paul not [sic] finish paying for the truck, I need to bring the truck to his house." Phillip explained that he did so, driving the truck to Mr. Alexander's house.

         Mrs. Williams instituted this matter in city court in August 2016 and sought the return of the vehicle to her as well as damages she alleged were incurred as a result of Mr. Alexander's retention of the truck. Mr. Alexander responded to the claim with a reconventional demand, seeking his own damages due to what he contends were defamatory allegations made by Mrs. Williams.

         Following a trial, at which both parties represented themselves, the trial court found in favor of Mrs. Williams, explaining that: "The vehicle, it's clear to the [c]ourt beginning in October of 2016 [sic], 2013, was owned by, transferred to and became owned by Savanah Williams and the community of Savanah and Mr. Williams and continues to be owned by them to this day." Accordingly, the trial court ...


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