FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF IBERIA,
NO. 128418 HONORABLE ANTHONY THIBODEAUX, DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael W. Campbell Caffery, Oubre, Campbell & Garrison,
L.L.P. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Joe Richard
J. Minvielle, III Haik, Minvielle & Grubbs COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Eugene Guillotte
composed of Marc T. Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Candyce
G. Perret, Judges.
SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE
plaintiff/appellant, Joe Richard, appeals the trial
court's judgment awarding him $500 and court costs. For
the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
is the owner of a metal building located in New Iberia,
Louisiana, which was leased to the defendant/appellee, Eugene
Guillotte, for a period of about fifteen years ending in
November 2015. Guillotte operated a collision repair and auto
sales shop. In January 2011, a fire accidentally occurred in
the building when a truck floorboard ignited from sparks
emitted while Guillotte was welding.
filed a petition for breach of contract on rent agreement in
June 2016, alleging that Guillotte owed him $1, 734.75 for
the removal of a sign, $6, 792.00 for a damaged overhead
door, $36, 780.00 for replacement of a metal roof and metal
walls, and $966.00 in back rent.
an April 2017 trial, the trial court awarded Richard $500.00
for remaining smoke damage related to the welding fire and
cast him with all court costs. Richard now appeals. For the
following reasons, we affirm.
trial court's denial of awarding Appellant the property
damages resulting from the fire in the amount of $36, 780.00
was manifest error and clearly wrong.
trial court's award of only $500.00 in damages to the
Appellant was manifest error and clearly wrong.
manifest error and clearly wrong Judgment of the trial court
warrants a de novo review of the record which
supports a finding of liability and damages in favor of
Appellant with Appellee to pay all court costs.
supreme court summarized the manifest error standard of
This court has announced a two-part test for the reversal of
a factfinder's determinations: (1) the appellate court
must find from the record that a reasonable factual basis
does not exist for the finding of the trial court, and (2)
the appellate court must further determine that the record
establishes that the finding is clearly wrong (manifestly
erroneous). See Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d
1120, 1127 (La.1987). This test dictates that a reviewing
court must do more than simply review the record for some
evidence which supports or controverts the trial court's
findings. See id. The reviewing court must review
the record in its entirety to determine whether the trial
court's finding was clearly wrong or manifestly
erroneous. See id.
Lobell v. Rosenberg, 15-247 p. 10 (La. 10/14/15),
186 So.3d 83, 90.
court is in a better position to make credibility
determinations as it has the benefit of examining the nuances
of a witness's testimony and demeanor. Lopez v.
Lopez, 00-660 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/2/00), 772 So.2d 364.
trial court set forth oral reasons for its findings at the
conclusion of trial. First, it found no rent was due because
it had been paid through October 15, 2015, with the rent for
the month of November having been bartered for a clear coat
application by Guillotte to a car owned by Richard.
Therefore, the claim for back rent was dismissed. The trial
court further found that the damages to the overhead door
pre-existed the fire based on the testimony, the chain system
used to raise and lower it, and the "constant"
calls to have it repaired. Therefore, damages related to the
overheard door were dismissed as the trial court found
"they probably existed prior to the Guillottes taking
possession of the place." Relating to the sign, the
trial court found Richard failed to prove that it was not a
gift given to Guillotte by Richard. Therefore, it dismissed
any claims relating to the sign.
to the smoke damage, the trial court found:
[T]here's no doubt that the cause of any damages to this
building, the remainder of it . . . the fire damage . . . was
definitely caused by Eugene Guillotte welding on a vehicle
inside that building for its intended purposes, okay? . .
.[T]he vehicle overheated, and it caught on fire, and
that's what caused the damages to the building[.]
The court finds that the condition of the building, as
demonstrated in Defendant's Exhibit 1, is the manner in
which it was as of November 15, 2015, the day that the
Guillottes exited the building in question. The lighting was
repaired, and the building was pressure-washed. It looks like
the entire - that entire section of that building did receive
some soot damage to the - probably to the inside of the whole
building, the purlings, the rafters, the plastic that holds
up the - that rests on the purlings which holds up the