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Schouest v. Voclain

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 21, 2017

CHRIS SCHOUEST D/B/A SCHOUEST HOMEBUILDERS
v.
BRENNAN VOCLAIN

         On Appeal from the 32nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Terrebonne State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 176, 208 Honorable Juan W. Pickett, Judge Presiding.

          Joseph J. Weigand, Jr. Houma, LA Attorney for Defendant-Appellant, Brennan Voclain

          Randall M. Alfred Houma, LA Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee, Chris Schouest d/b/a Schouest Homebuilders

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         In this appeal, a property owner challenges the trial judgment that upheld a portion of a lien on his property in favor of a licensed contractor pursuant to La. R.S. 9:4801, and that dismissed his reconventional demand for damages and attorney's fees pursuant to La. R.S. 9:4855.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant-appellant, Brennan Voclain, is the owner of the property described as 504 Dax's Place in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Plaintiff-appellee, Chris Schouest, D/B/A Schouest Homebuilders (Mr. Schouest) is a licensed contractor. Mr. Schouest and Mr. Voclain entered into an oral contract for the construction of a home on Mr. Voclain's property for a total construction cost of $177, 475.46. On June 20, 2015, Mr. Schouest signed a written contract prepared by Ann Storm, Mr. Voclain's agent and mother, outlining the terms of the agreement, but the written contract was never signed by Mr. Voclain. Under the terms of the written contract, Mr. Schouest was to be paid 10% of the total construction cost estimated to be approximately $17, 747.55 for his work.

         During construction of the home, Mr. Schouest was paid on four separate occasions an average of $3, 200.00, for a total payment of $12, 800.00. Mr. Schouest received his last payment on September 25, 2015. After becoming unsatisfied with Mr. Schouest's attention to the construction project, on October 30, 2015, through an email, Mr. Voclain terminated his contract with Mr. Schouest. At this time, the house was not complete but nearing completion.

         On November 30, 2015, Mr. Schouest sent a Notice of Nonpayment and Statement of Lien Rights to Mr. Voclain, along with an invoice that requested payment in the amount of $6, 200.00. The notice was received by Mr. Voclain on December 7, 2015. Mr. Voclain did not remit any payments to Mr. Schouest after he received the notice.

         Mr. Schouest then filed a Statement of Lien and Privilege in Lafourche Parish on January 8, 2016, and a Petition for Recognition of Lien and Money Damages in the 32nd Judicial District Court on January 15, 2016. Mr. Voclain answered Mr. Schouest's petition and filed a reconventional demand contending that Mr. Schouest's lien failed to comply with La. R.S. 9:4801[1] and that the statements in the lien were falsified in violation of La. R.S. 9:4855, [2] entitling him to damages and attorney fees.

         A trial was held on October 19, 2016. After trial, the trial court in detailed written reasons, found based on the testimony and evidence, that Mr. Schouest was a contractor for the construction of Mr. Voclain's house for the purposes of La. R.S. 9:4801, and the lien placed on Mr. Voclain's property was proper and should be recognized as bearing against Mr. Voclain's property. The trial court pointed out that Mr. Schouest's lien for $6, 200.00 included a $1, 300.00 balance owed to painters which was paid by Mr. Voclain, and a $1, 700.00 charge for a final walk through which was never conducted due to Mr. Schouest's termination prior to the house's completion. Therefore, the trial court reduced the amount owed to Mr. Schouest to $3, 200.00. The trial court also concluded that Mr. Voclain's reconventional demand should be denied.

         On January 26, 2017, a judgment in conformity with the trial court's written reasons was signed in favor of Mr. Schouest, and against Mr. Voclain, in the sum of $3, 200.00 as well as $300.00 for the cost of filing the lien and interest. The judgment also recognized the lien filed by Mr. Schouest on January 8, 2016, encumbering Mr. Voclain's property located at 504 Dax's Place, and dismissed Mr. Voclain's reconventional demand with prejudice.

         It is from this judgment that Mr. Voclain appeals, assigning error to the validity of the lien, rather than Mr. Schouest's underlying claim for money owed. Specifically, Mr. Voclain claims that the trial court erred in: (1) concluding that the oral contract to recommend and supervise subcontractors, and not pay for materials or subcontractors, created a lien right pursuant to La. R.S. 9:4801; and (2) failing to find that Mr. Schouest willfully, knowingly, and ...


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