APPLICATION FOR SUPERVISORY WRITS FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL
DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF VERMILION, NO. 82162 HONORABLE
JEROME M. WINSBERG, PRESIDING AD HOC
T. Carmouche Victor L. Marcello John H. Carmouche William R.
Coenen, III Brian T. Carmouche Todd J. Wimberley Ross J.
Donnes D. Adele Owen Leah C. Poole Caroline H. Martin
Christopher D. Martin Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello FOR
PLAINTIFFS/RESPONDENTS: State of Louisiana Vermilion Parish
Edward Knoll The Knoll Law Firm, L.L.C. FOR
PLAINTIFFS/RESPONDENTS: State of Louisiana Vermilion Parish
J. Abraham Attorney at Law FOR PLAINTIFFS/RESPONDENTS: State
of Louisiana Vermilion Parish School Board
E. Woodruff, Jr. Attorney at Law FOR PLAINTIFFS/RESPONDENTS:
State of Louisiana Vermilion Parish School Board
Michael R. Phillips Claire E. Juneau Jeffrey J. Gelpi Kean
Miller LLP FOR DEFENDANT/APPLICANT: Union Oil Company of
Victor Gregoire Alan J. Berteau Kean Miller LLP FOR
DEFENDANT/APPLICANT: Union Oil Company of California
E. Meadows Carol M. Wood Andrew M. Stakelum King &
Spaulding LLP FOR DEFENDANT/APPLICANT: Union Oil Company of
composed of Shannon J. Gremillion, Phyllis M. Keaty, and D.
Kent Savoie, Judges.
SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE
defendant-applicant, Union Oil Company of California
(UNOCAL), seeks supervisory writs from the trial court's
judgment denying its motion to compel discovery. For the
following reasons, we deny the writ and affirm the trial
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case involves an oilfield contamination lawsuit that is
governed by 2006 La. Acts No. 312, which enacted La.R.S.
30:29. The plaintiffs, the State of Louisiana (State) and the
Vermilion Parish School Board (VPSB), filed suit against
UNOCAL and other defendants, alleging that property owned by
the State and managed by VPSB was damaged as a result of
fifty-five years of oil and gas exploration activities. The
plaintiffs' private law claims were tried by a jury in
April and May 2015. The jury found UNOCAL liable for
environmental damage but found no liability on the part of
the other defendants.
accordance with the provisions of Act 312, in August 2015,
the trial court signed an order referring the case to the
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Office of
Conservation (LDNR) to develop a feasible plan for the
remediation of the environmental damage on the
plaintiffs' property. After conducting a two-week
hearing, the LDNR issued a feasible remediation plan, which
was subsequently adopted by the trial court. The judgment
adopting the LDNR's plan is currently the subject of an
appeal lodged with this court on September 13, 2017, docket
the judgment was rendered regarding the remediation plan, the
plaintiffs sought entry of a judgment on the jury's
verdict regarding their private law claims. At a hearing held
on April 11, 2017, the trial court denied the plaintiffs'
request for the court to sign a "partial final
judgment" on their private law claims. The trial court
ruled that it would not sign a "final judgment" on
the private law claims until after it ruled on the
plaintiffs' claims for costs and attorney fees. Instead,
on April 26, 2017, the trial court signed a "partial
judgment" on the jury's verdict, dismissing various
claims and theories of recovery against UNOCAL and its
co-defendants and holding UNOCAL strictly liable to the
plaintiffs in the amount of $1, 500, 000.00 for restoration
of property damage. That judgment also reserves the
plaintiffs' claims for costs and attorney fees. The
plaintiffs state that their claims for costs and attorney
fees will require extensive discovery and a three-day trial.
2015, after the jury had rendered its verdict, the plaintiffs
and UNOCAL each filed a motion for JNOV and new trial. After
the trial court signed the judgment of April 26, 2017, the
plaintiffs and UNOCAL re-urged their motions for JNOV and new
trial. The trial court declined to rule on the motions for
JNOV and new trial until after a hearing regarding the
plaintiffs' motion for costs and attorney fees was held.
The plaintiffs sought supervisory review of the trial
court's decision to delay the hearing.
25, 2017, this court granted the applicants' writ:
WRIT GRANTED AND MADE PEREMPTORY.
The trial court abused its discretion in deciding to conduct
a hearing on attorney fees and costs before a final
determination on the pending motions for a new trial and
JNOV. We hereby vacate the trial court's rulings of April
11, 2017, April 26, 2017, and May 8, 2017. Judicial economy
requires a determination on ultimate liability before the
assessment of attorney fees and costs. Further, La.Code
Civ.P. art. 2551 mandates that theses summary proceedings
should be "conducted with rapidity." We remand this
case and order the trial court to conduct a hearing on the
pending motions for a new trial and JNOV within forty-five
(45) days of the finality of this Order.
We grant the relators' [plaintiffs'] Motion to File a
Supplemental Brief; we deny the Motion for Leave to File
Amicus Curiae Brief filed by the State of Louisiana, through
the Office of Conservation.
August 31, 2017, a hearing was held on the motions for new
trial and JNOV, the outcome of which is not known at this
time. A hearing on attorney fees and costs was to be
conducted after the trial court ruled on the motions.
in response to discovery requests related to the motion for
costs and attorney fees, VPSB, the plaintiff/respondent in
the instant matter, produced 153 separate spreadsheets
totaling 1, 341 pages. UNOCAL complained, however, that VPSB
converted the spreadsheets into non-searchable, static image
files. Accordingly, UNOCAL filed a motion to compel
production of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets in its
original electronic form. The motion was taken up on August
10, 2017, and subsequently denied. UNOCAL is now before this
court on writs, seeking review of the trial court's
proper procedural vehicle to contest an interlocutory
judgment that does not cause irreparable harm is an
application for supervisory writs. See La. C.C.P.
arts. 2087 and 2201." Brown v. Sanders,
06-1171, p. 2 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/23/07), 960 So.2d 931, 933.
But see La.Code Civ.P. art. 2083, comment (b), which
provides "Irreparable injury continues to be an
important (but not exclusive) ingredient in an application
for supervisory writs."
issue herein is one of first impression regarding La.Code
Civ.P. arts. 1461 and 1462 and the production of
electronically stored information. Neither party included a
copy of the discovery request sent by UNOCAL to VPSB.
According to UNOCAL, the ...