REMAND FROM THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT AN APPEAL FROM THE
TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON,
STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 748-275, DIVISION "G"
HONORABLE E. ADRIAN ADAMS, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, JAVIER OCAMPO AND DENNIS
ORDONEZ Luz M. Molina, Andrea M. Agee, Ridge Miguez.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, NICOLE MARONGE Erin A.
composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Robert M. Murphy, and
Stephen J. Windhorst
M. CHEHARDY, CHIEF JUDGE
Javier Ocampo and Dennis Ordoñez, appeal the 24th
Judicial District Court's judgments of April 28, 2016 and
January 23, 2017. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the
judgment of April 28, 2016, amend in part the judgment of
January 23, 2017, and affirm that judgment as amended.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Maronge is the sole owner and manager of La Maison
Renovations, LLC. On February 17, 2014, La Maison contracted
with Truly Noble Services, Inc. to perform a renovation on a
residential property in Napoleonville, Louisiana. Seeking
laborers, on February 21, 2014, Ms. Maronge sent a text
message to Dennis Ordoñez, asking if he and his
friend, Javier Ocampo, were interested in some painting work,
explaining that she needed three laborers to paint at the
Napoleonville property. Mr. Ordoñez and Mr. Ocampo had
done work for Ms. Maronge in the past and agreed to do this
arrived to the jobsite on Tuesday, February 25, 2014, where
Ms. Maronge informed them of their tasks and advised them
that the job needed to be completed by Friday, February 28.
At trial, however, both Mr. Ordoñez and Mr. Ocampo
testified that they were not informed of a deadline. A
discussion was held later that day via text messages
regarding plaintiffs' compensation. Ms. Maronge offered
$15 per hour and plaintiffs countered with $17 per hour. Ms.
Maronge agreed to pay for the cost of plaintiffs'
gasoline, but there was no further discussion regarding the
hourly rate. At trial, Ms. Maronge testified that she
believed the agreement was $15 per hour plus the cost of gas,
while plaintiffs explained they thought they would be paid
$17 per hour plus the cost of gas.
Maronge supplied materials, including sheetrock, paint,
primer, caulk, tape, spackling, and other similar items.
Plaintiffs supplied their own tools, such as brushes,
rollers, buckets, and drop cloths. Ms. Maronge provided a
explained the job was more than just painting. They ripped up
a wood floor in the house on the first day and continued with
demolition work in the garage on the second day. They did not
start painting until Thursday. By the end of Friday, they
were not finished and informed Ms. Maronge that they could
finish by Sunday, March 2 if they brought in a third guy. She
agreed. With this additional help, plaintiffs worked over the
weekend, and when they left on Sunday, only the trim remained
to be painted. They were on their way back to the job on
Monday but did not make it because of car trouble. This
forced Ms. Maronge to hire other laborers to finish the job.
Tuesday, March 4, Mr. Ordoñez sent Ms. Maronge a text
message asking to be paid. In a message on Friday, March 7,
she responded that she could not pay them until she was paid
by Truly Noble.
repeated failed attempts to get paid, on May 1, 2014,
plaintiffs, with the assistance of the Loyola Law Clinic,
sent a demand letter to Ms. Maronge, each seeking payment for
51 hours worked at $17 per hour. Still unable to resolve the
dispute, on April 1, 2015, plaintiffs filed a "Rule to
Show Cause Why Wages Should be Paid" in the 24th
Judicial District Court pursuant to the Louisiana Wage
Payment Act, La. R.S. 23:631, et seq. In this
pleading, plaintiffs alleged that each had worked a total of
62 hours and were entitled to $17 per hour. In addition to
unpaid wages, they also sought penalties and attorneys'
fees under the law. In Ms. Maronge's answer, she
maintained that each plaintiff had worked a total of 45 hours
at a rate of $15 per hour.
discovery, on December 20, 2015, plaintiffs filed a motion
for partial summary judgment, seeking a finding as a matter
of law that plaintiffs were employees of Ms. Maronge, and not
on March 2, 2016, Ms. Maronge filed a "Motion to Place
Funds in the Registry of the Court," in which she
asserted that she had finally received payment from Truly
Noble in connection with the work performed at the
Napoleonville property. She explained that she had attempted
to pay each plaintiff $867, accounting for plaintiffs'
claims of unpaid wages for 51 hours of work at $17 per hour.
Plaintiffs rejected this offer and Ms. Maronge deposited
$1,734 in the registry of the court to be released upon final
March 28, 2016 hearing on plaintiffs' motion for partial
summary judgment, the court issued its judgment on April 28,
2016 denying plaintiffs' motion. The matter proceeded to
trial on January 4, 2017. The court issued its judgment on
January 23, 2017, finding plaintiffs to be independent
contractors and awarding them $1,734, plus interest from date
of judicial demand, all costs of the proceedings, and
attorneys' fees. The court's written reasons followed
on February 10, 2017. Plaintiffs' appeal timely followed.
appeal, plaintiffs assign four errors: (1) the district court
erred in its March 28, 2016 denial of plaintiffs' motion
for partial summary judgment; (2) the district court erred in
its January 23, 2017 judgment by finding plaintiffs
independent contractors; (3) the district court erred in
addressing the issue of penalty wages; and (4) the district
court erred in finding plaintiffs were entitled to