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Block Construction, LLC v. Recreation & Park Commission

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

January 19, 2018

BLOCK CONSTRUCTION, LLC
v.
RECREATION & PARK COMMISSION FOR THE PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE

         On appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Number 636932 Honorable Wilson E. Fields, Judge Presiding

          Scott E. Frazier Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Plaintiff/ Appellee Block Construction, LLC

          Murphy J. Foster, III Steven B. Loeb Jacob E. Roussel Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant Carolyn McKnight, in her official capacity as Superintendent for the Recreation & Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, J J.

          GUIDRY, J.

         A public entity appeals a writ of mandamus directing it to award a contract to the sole bidder on a project that was cancelled because the sole bid received was in excess of the amount budgeted for the project. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand this matter for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 12, 2014, the Recreation & Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC) let for bid the "Wards Creek Multi-Use Pathway Bridge Project, " which was a part of a larger, ten-year capital improvement program that included creating pedestrian walking trails throughout Baton Rouge. Only one company, Block Construction, LLC, submitted a bid for the project. BREC ultimately rejected the lone bid as being "significantly over budget." Following the rejection of its bid and its request for reconsideration, Block filed a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief, and alternatively, for a writ of mandamus, to be awarded a contract for construction of the Wards Creek Bridge project. BREC filed an answer generally denying the claims of Block's petition. BREC also filed a peremptory exception urging the objection of no cause of action, asserting that Block's claims were barred, in whole or in part, by Louisiana Public Bid Law.[1] A hearing on Block's petition for declaratory, injunctive, and alternatively, mandamus relief and BREC's objection of no cause of action was held on March 12, 2015. On July 7, 2015, the trial court signed a judgment in favor of Block, wherein it issued a writ of mandamus directing BREC to award Block a contract for the Wards Creek Bridge project.

         BREC suspensively appealed the July 7, 2015 judgment. On appeal, BREC again raised the objection of no cause of action, but on the basis that Block improperly sought the issuance of a writ of mandamus under La. C.C.P. art. 3863. Article 3863 requires that the writ be directed to a public officer; however, in its petition, Block did not name a public officer, but only BREC, as a defendant in the action. This Court found merit in the objection and reversed the July 7, 2015 judgment. The matter was further remanded to the trial court with instructions to allow Block to amend its pleadings to add a public officer as a party defendant, or alternatively, for the trial court to consider BREC's remaining causes of action.[2]Block Construction, LLC v. Recreation & Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, 15-1323, p. 6 (La.App. 1st Cir. 4/15/16), 2016 WL 1545620, at *3.

         On remand, Block filed a supplemental and amended petition naming the superintendent of BREC, Carolyn McKnight, as a party defendant. McKnight, in her capacity as superintendent of BREC, generally denied the allegations of the supplemental and amended petition and further raised as an affirmative defense that Block's claims were barred under the Louisiana Public Bid Law, as well as raised the objections of no cause of action and res judicata. McKnight subsequently filed exceptions urging the objections of res judicata, no cause of action, and lack of subject matter jurisdiction for mootness.[3]

         A hearing on Block's supplemental and amended petition, in addition to the various exceptions filed by McKnight, was held on October 24, 2016. Following argument by counsel for the parties, [4] the trial court denied the exceptions raised by McKnight and again issued a writ of mandamus, this time directed at McKnight in her capacity as superintendent of BREC. Pursuant to the writ of mandamus, McKnight was ordered to award Block a contract for the Wards Creek Bridge project. McKnight supsensively appealed the judgment that was signed by the trial court November 28, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal, McKnight raises five assignments of error, the first being that mandamus was improperly granted, citing the following ruling by this court in Wiginton v. Tangipahoa Parish Council 00-1319, p. 5 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/29/01), 790 So.2d 160, 163: "mandamus is an extraordinary remedy available only if relief is not available through ordinary process. We have held a mandamus is unavailable when injunctive relief and declaratory relief is also sought." We find merit in this assignment of error, and in so finding, we pretermit discussion of the remaining assignments of error raised by McKnight.

         In its supplemental and amended petition, filed after the case was remanded by this court, Block again sought the following relief, which was the same as what it sought originally: (1) a preliminary injunction to enjoin BREC from re-letting the project for contract; (2) after due proceedings, a permanent injunction mandating that a contract for the project be awarded to Block; (3) after due proceedings, a declaratory judgment declaring that BREC lacked just cause or no just cause existed for BREC to reject Block's bid and thus Block was entitled to be awarded the ...


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