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Gadrel, L.L.C. v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

March 14, 2018

GADREL, L.L.C.
v.
ARTHUR ALPHONSE WILLIAMS

         ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 762-091, DIVISION "B" HONORABLE CORNELIUS E. REGAN, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, GADREL, L.L.C. Jonah Freedman

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, ARTHUR ALPHONSE WILLIAMS Jack A. Ricci

          Panel composed of Judges Stephen J. Windhorst, Hans J. Liljeberg, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore

          LILJEBERG, J.

         This matter involves a petition for partition by licitation filed by plaintiff/appellee, Gadrel, L.L.C. ("Gadrel"). Defendant/Appellant, Arthur Alphonse Williams, appeals a judgment granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Gadrel. In the judgment, the trial court declared that Gadrel and Mr. Williams each owned an undivided one-half interest in the immovable property subject to the partition, granted partition by licitation, ordered the Jefferson Parish Sheriff to seize and sell the immovable property without appraisal, and ordered the net proceeds of the sale to be split evenly between Gadrel and Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams filed a motion for devolutive appeal. On appeal, Mr. Williams discloses that the partition by licitation was completed as the property at issue was sold on September 20, 2017.

         For reasons set forth more fully below, we find the trial court erred in granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings and reverse that ruling. However, because Mr. Williams failed to file a suspensive appeal to halt the sale of the property and the sale has occurred, we cannot reverse the portions of the judgment ordering partition by licitation and seizure and sale of the immovable property as the sale of the property rendered Mr. Williams' request to reverse these portions of the judgment moot. Therefore, in addition to reversing the trial court's decision to grant the motion for judgment on the pleadings, we reverse the portions of the judgment declaring that Gadrel and Mr. Williams each own an undivided one-half interest in the immovable property and declaring that the net proceeds of the sale be split evenly between Gadrel and Mr. Williams.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 20, 2016, Gadrel filed a Petition for Partition by Licitation alleging in paragraph four of the petition that it owned an undivided one-half interest in immovable property located at 3150 August Street in Jefferson Parish (the "Property"). In paragraph five of the petition, Gadrel alleged that it acquired its interest in the Property from "Betty Joyce Williams via Act of Cash Sale dated January 6th, 2016. . ." and that "ARTHUR ALPHONSE WILLIAMS and Betty Joyce Williams acquired the Property from Nolan Lionel Lee via Sheriff's Deed dated February 2nd, 1999. . . ." In paragraphs six and seven of the petition, Gadrel requested that the trial court grant his request for partition by licitation and order the Jefferson Parish Sheriff to seize and sell the property.

         Mr. Williams filed an answer admitting the allegations in paragraphs four and five of the petition and denied the allegations in paragraphs six and seven. Mr. Williams did not allege any affirmative defenses. Gadrel then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings arguing that by admitting all of the factual allegations in paragraphs four and five of the petition, Mr. Williams admitted that Gadrel owned half of the Property and was a co-owner entitled to partition the Property. Gadrel further alleged that the Property was a small lot improved by a house which occupied most of the surface area, and therefore, partition in kind was not appropriate, leaving partition by licitation the only available remedy.

         In response to the motion for judgment on the pleadings, Mr. Williams filed an opposition in which he argued that the sale of half of the Property by his ex-wife, Betty Williams, to Gadrel was invalid because it was a community property asset acquired during their marriage. Mr. Williams argued that pursuant to La. C.C. art. 2347, Ms. Williams could not sell the property to Gadrel without his consent and he did not agree to the sale.[1] Mr. Williams also filed a motion for leave to amend his answer. The proposed amended answer attached to the motion did not seek to reverse Mr. Williams' prior admissions to the allegations in the petition, but rather sought to add "affirmative defenses of invalidity of the Act of Sale which plaintiff claims its one-half (1/2) ownership of the subject property, as well as lesion beyond moiety."

         On January 4, 2017, the trial court granted Mr. Williams' motion to amend his answer and denied Gadrel's motion for judgment on the pleadings as moot. Mr. Williams filed his amended answer adding the affirmative defenses quoted above on April 3, 2017. On April 13, 2017, Gadrel filed a second motion for judgment on the pleadings, again noting that in his answer, Mr. Williams admitted Gadrel owned an undivided one-half interest in the Property. Gadrel further argued that the affirmative defenses raised in the amended answer did not "properly remedy" Mr. Williams' admissions.

         The trial court set the second motion for judgment on the pleadings for hearing on June 13, 2017. Mr. Williams did not file an opposition brief. According to the minute entry from that court date, Mr. Williams' counsel did not appear for the hearing and the trial court granted Gadrel's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The trial court entered a written judgment on June 19, 2017, which ordered as follows:

IT IS ORDERED, ADJUGED, AND DECREED that Petitioner, GADREL, L.L.C.'s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ...

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