Appeal from the 17th Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish of Lafourche State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 130,
172 Honorable Christopher J. Boudreaux, Judge Presiding
Kentley R. Fairchild Houma, LA Attorney for
Defendant-Appellant, Daron Cavaness Builder, Inc.
Willard P. Schieffler Thibodaux, LA Attorney for
Plaintiff-Appellee, Marjorie Hodson
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.
builder appeals a judgment rendered in favor of a homeowner
based upon an alleged oral agreement to repair damaged
30, 2010, Marjorie Hodson purchased a new home from Daron
Cavaness Builder, Inc. in Raceland, Louisiana. Ms. Hodson and
her daughter, Kelli Ann Dugas, immediately moved into the new
house. Approximately six years later, on May 18, 2016, Ms.
Hodson called Mr. Cavaness to request that he come to her
house to examine a recent problem with the tile flooring and
grout that was cracking and crumbling. Mr. Cavaness responded
that same date by personally examining the damaged flooring.
Ms. Hodson made it clear to Mr. Cavaness that she expected
him to have the damage repaired. Mr. Cavaness advised Ms.
Hodson that he would "look into it and get back with
her." However, Mr. Cavaness never got back with Ms.
Hodson, even though she repeatedly tried to contact him about
the repair job. Ms. Hodson filed a complaint with the Better
Business Bureau for the Greater New Orleans area on June 1,
2016. Still, Ms. Hodson did not receive a response from Mr.
Cavaness. Because Ms. Hodson believed that Mr. Cavaness had
made an oral promise to have her floors repaired, she sought
assistance from a lawyer to make a written demand on Mr.
Cavaness to repair the floors as promised. Mr. Cavaness
responded to the demand by informing Ms. Hodson's lawyer
that the house was "out of warranty" for flooring
pursuant to the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act (NHWA). Mr.
Cavaness denied that he ever told Ms. Hodson that he would
have the flooring repaired.
Hodson filed suit against Mr. Cavaness's business on June
16, 2016, alleging claims pursuant to the NHWA and in
redhibition. She supplemented her petition a few weeks later
to add an allegation for breach of oral contract, alleging
that Mr. Cavaness had breached an oral agreement to inspect
and repair the flooring in her house. The claims pursuant to
the NHWA and in redhibition were dismissed pursuant to
peremptory exceptions granted in favor of Mr. Cavaness's
business on October 7, 2016. Those claims are not at issue in
this appeal. However, the remaining claim for breach of an
oral contract to repair proceeded to a bench trial on May 31,
2017. The trial court ultimately ruled in favor of Ms.
Hodson, finding her testimony to be more credible than that
offered by Mr. Cavaness and that Ms. Hodson met her burden of
proving corroborating circumstances sufficient to establish
the existence of an oral contract. A final judgment was
rendered in favor of Ms. Hodson for $5, 750.00 against Daron
Cavaness Builder, Inc., for the cost to repair the damaged
flooring. Mr. Cavaness's business appeals, asserting the
trial court erred in finding a valid oral contract to repair.
only issue at trial was whether a valid oral contract to
repair the floors was proven by Ms. Hodson. A contract not
reduced to writing, for a price or value above $500.00, must
be proved by at least one witness and other corroborating
circumstances. La. Civ. Code art. 1846; Suire v.
Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, 2004-1459
(La. 4/12/05), 907 So.2d 37, 58. To meet the burden of
proving an oral contract by a witness and other corroborating
circumstances, a plaintiff may serve as her own witness and
the "other corroborating circumstances" may be
general and need not prove every detail of the plaintiffs
case. Pennington Const, Inc. v. R A Eagle Corp.,
94-0575 (La.App. 1st Cir. 3/3/95), 652 So.2d 637, 639. The
corroborating evidence, however, must come from a source
other than the plaintiff. Id. Whether there
were corroborating circumstances sufficient to establish an
oral contract is a question of fact, and our review of the
factual conclusions is limited to a review of the entire
record to determine if those conclusions are clearly wrong.
note that when evaluating the evidence needed to establish
the existence or non-existence of an oral contract, the trial
court is allowed to make credibility determinations. Key
Office Equipment, Inc. v. Zachary Community School Bd.,
2015-1412 (La.App. 1st Cir. 4/15/16), 195 So.3d 54, 60,
writ denied, 2016-0841 (La. 6/17/16), 192 So.3d 772.
Reasonable evaluations of credibility will not be disturbed
upon review unless documents or objective evidence so
contradict the witness's story, or the story itself is so
internally inconsistent or implausible on its face, that a
reasonable factfinder would not credit the determination.
Id. at 61.
reasons for judgment, the trial court first noted that the
repair estimate given by a different contractor, Jacob
Boudreaux, established by a preponderance of the evidence
that Ms. Hodson's floor damage could be repaired for $5,
750.00, which clearly put the amount at issue over $500.00.
The trial court next noted that Ms. Hodson's testimony
was credible and she was clearly under the impression that
Mr. Cavaness had promised to repair the damaged floor when he
examined the flooring on May 18, 2016. Our review of Ms.
Hodson's testimony reveals that she was frustrated that
Mr. Cavaness never got back to her after promising that he
would determine who had installed the flooring and would get
back with her to set up the repair. The trial court also
observed, and the record supports, that Ms. Hodson's
daughter's testimony did not provide the required
corroboration needed to prove the existence of the alleged
oral contract to repair, because the daughter was not present
at the time of Mr. Cavaness's examination of the damage
and she never heard Mr. Cavaness tell Ms. Hodson that he
would repair the floor.
the testimony of Mr. Cavaness, the trial court stated that it
found his testimony "inconsistent" and that it did
not "give a great deal of weight to [Mr. Cavaness's]
testimony because of the number of inconsistencies." Our
review of Mr. Cavaness's testimony shows confusion over
the number of phone calls received by Ms. Hodson and her
daughter. However, the testimony also reveals a consistent
denial that Mr. Cavaness ever promised to repair Ms.
Hodson's damaged floors, even though she had made it
clear to him that she expected him to take
responsibility for the repair. Instead, Mr. Cavaness admitted
that he promised to "look into it and get back with her
in a week or two[, ]" but he never got back with her.
The trial court went on to discuss the corroborating evidence
envisioned by La. Civ. Code art. 1846 and the jurisprudence,
such that there was a need for an independent source of
corroboration in addition to Ms. Hodson's testimony. The
trial court was impressed with the fact that Mr. Cavaness had