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Moridani v. Stone Clinical Laboratories, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

November 22, 2017

DR. MAJID MORIDANI
v.
STONE CLINICAL LABORATORIES, LLC

         APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-10459, DIVISION "L-6" Honorable Kern A. Reese, Judge

          James F. Willeford Reagan L. Toledano WILLEFORD & TOLEDANO COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Philip A. Franco Lauren L. Tafaro Raymond P. Ward ADAMS AND REESE, LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods

          DANIEL L. DYSART JUDGE.

         In this breach of contract case, the plaintiff-appellant, Dr. Majid Moridani, appeals the trial court's grant of a summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, Stone Clinical Laboratories, LLC ("Stone"), while Stone answers the appeal, seeking an award from this Court of damages for a frivolous appeal. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's judgment, but we decline to award frivolous appeal damages.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 21, 2016, Dr. Moridani filed a Petition for Breach of Contract (the "Petition") against Stone. In the Petition, Dr. Moridani alleged that he and Stone had entered into a written employment contract on August 16, 2016, by which Stone was to pay Dr. Moridani a base salary of $150, 000 per year, plus $500 per month in expenses and moving expenses of $3, 000. According to the Petition, Dr. Moridani began working for Stone on August 24, 2016; however, his employment with Stone was terminated on September 24, 2016 by email from Jody Lutz, Stone's Executive Vice President. Dr. Moridani alleged that, pursuant to the terms of the employment contract, he was entitled to two months' notice prior to termination, in addition to his salary for that two-month period ($25, 000), as well as monthly and moving expenses.

         Dr. Moridani made demand for the payment of these wages on October 5, 2016. Stone notified him on October 17, 2016 that it would not make any payment to him. Dr. Moridani then filed this lawsuit seeking those amounts claimed due under the employment contract, in addition to attorney's fees and penalties of $37, 500 pursuant to La. R.S. 23:631 and La. R.S. 23:632.

         On December 23, 2016, Stone moved for summary judgment on the general basis that a final employment contract had not been signed by the parties. After a hearing on March 24, 2017, the motion for summary judgment ("Motion") was granted. Dr. Moridani requested written reasons for judgment, which were issued on April 12, 2017. Dr. Moridani timely filed an appeal of the December 23, 2016 judgment. Stone answered the appeal, seeking an award of damages for a frivolous appeal pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 2164.

         DISCUSSION

         In an appeal involving the grant of a summary judgment, a de novo standard of review is applied by the appellate court, "using the same standard applied by the trial court in deciding the motion for summary judgment." City of New Orleans v. Jazz Casino Co., LLC, 15-1150, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/22/16), 195 So.3d 1252, 1255, writ denied, 16-1393 (La. 11/7/16), 209 So.3d 99, citing Sanchez v. Harbor Const. Co., Inc., 08-0316, pp. 3-4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/1/08), 996 So.2d 584, 587. That standard is set forth in La. C.C.P. art. 966 A(3), which provides that "a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." "The only documents that may be filed in support of or in opposition to the motion are pleadings, memoranda, affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, certified medical records, written stipulations, and admissions." La. C.C.P. art. 966 A(4).

         The burden of proof rests with the party moving for summary judgment. La. C.C.P. art. 966 D(1). However, "if the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the mover's burden on the motion does not require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim, action, or defense." Id. Instead, the mover must "point out to the court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense." Id. "The burden is on the adverse party to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.

         We have conducted a de novo review of the record and find that the trial court properly granted Stone's Motion.

         Dr. Moridani's appeal is largely based on his contention that the parties entered into a "simple written and signed employment contract, " which required "severance wages if [Stone] terminated [his] employment with or without cause." Dr. Moridani further maintains that the trial court's judgment was based on inadmissible parole evidence submitted by Stone in support of its Motion. Dr. Moridani contends that the trial court should have only considered the employment contract, itself, and that any documents that varied the terms of the contract should have been excluded from consideration.

         The trial court rejected Dr. Moridani's contentions, finding in its reasons for judgment, "that the final contract had not been confected, there was no 'meeting of the minds' between the parties, and thus, an absence of an enforceable contract." After our de novo review of the record, we find that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment in Stone's favor.

         We first address Dr. Moridani's argument that the trial court improperly considered Stone's "parole evidence in support of the motion without first considering and ruling ...


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