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New Orleans Private Patrol Service, Inc. v. Corporate Connection, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

March 21, 2018

NEW ORLEANS PRIVATE PATROL SERVICE, INC.
v.
CORPORATE CONNECTION, INC.

          APPEAL FROM FIRST CITY COURT OF NEW ORLEANS NO. 2016-06589, SECTION "A" Honorable Monique G. Morial, Judge

          John W. Waters, Jr. Benjamin R. McDonald Gregory J. McDonald BIENVENU FOSTER RYAN & O'BANNON, LLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Temple A. Stephens COMEAUX, STEPHENS & GRACE, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods

          REGINA BARTHOLOMEW WOODS JUDGE

         Appellant, New Orleans Private Patrol Services, Inc. ("NOPP"), appeals a June 16, 2017 judgment rendered by the First City Court for the Parish of Orleans ("trial court"), which granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, Corporate Connections, Inc. ("CCI"). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the trial court's ruling and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         NOPP, in need of a sales manager, entered into a contractual agreement with CCI on January 19, 2016, to provide "recruitment and staffing services" to fill the position. CCI asserted that it "would select and screen job candidates and submit those candidates to NOPP for positions that NOPP was [sic] seeking to fill." According to NOPP, the contractual agreement had two (2) components. First, CCI was responsible for recruiting and recommending candidates to NOPP. NOPP asserts that although CCI's services were not specified in writing, NOPP "understood" that CCI was to "pre-screen[] potential candidates to determine their qualifications, and [conduct] a personal interview . . . to determine the candidate's skill level and suitability." Second, CCI's written "90 Day Replacement Guarantee Only" provision stated that "should the placed employee be let go or choose to leave the client company's employ within ninety (90) days, [CCI] will replace the employee at no additional cost" to NOPP. In compensation for its services, CCI was to receive ten percent (10%) of the placed-employee's first year salary.

         On February 15, 2016, CCI presented Mr. Sean Donelon ("Mr. Donelon") to NOPP in consideration for the sales manager position. According to CCI, they selected Mr. Donelon as a candidate and prepared to perform a background check. While his background check was pending, NOPP interviewed Mr. Donelon twice and ultimately hired him-ten days before the background and reference checks were completed.[1] According to NOPP, it hired Mr. Donelon, unaware of the fact that the background and reference checks were incomplete. However, CCI disputed this claim and asserted that NOPP was fully aware of the incomplete background and reference checks when it interviewed and ultimately hired Mr. Donelon.

         NOPP asserted that CCI first requested Mr. Donelon's references on February 29, 2016, three (3) days after NOPP offered him the position. According to NOPP, CCI completed Mr. Donelon's reference check on March 2, 2016, and received the results of his criminal background check on March 3, 2016. CCI reported that its review showed no criminal record, no issues with his Social Security history, and no involvement in civil lawsuits. CCI asserted that it searched on both Facebook and Google, which produced no challenges to Mr. Donelon's "professional ability or background." CCI further asserted that it contacted the professional references who were provided by Mr. Donelon; all three (3) gave "favorable recommendation[s]." As a result of the aforementioned, CCI generated an invoice for its services, dated March 7, 2016; accordingly, NOPP timely remitted payment to CCI in the amount of $3, 600.00, which was the amount invoiced.

         On March 7, 2016, Mr. Donelon began working at NOPP and, according to NOPP, he began displaying "strange behavior." In an affidavit, NOPP's secretary-treasurer, Karen Lorenz ("Lorenz"), stated that Mr. Donelon inquired about obtaining a gun, which is never provided to sales managers. Lorenz further stated that she observed "visible signs that Donelon was impaired while working." As a result, Lorenz recommended that he be terminated from his employment with NOPP.

         In addition to Lorenz, Marie Stroud ("Stroud"), NOPP's executive assistant, stated in an affidavit that she observed Mr. Donelon's unusual behavior which "included constant pacing, 'blanking out, ' and attending staffing meetings while visibly impaired." Subsequent to Mr. Donelon's termination on May 12, 2016, NOPP discovered handcuffs and a badge in his desk; NOPP suggested that Mr. Donelon retrieved these items from the supply closet without permission, because NOPP never supplied him with these items. Lorenz discovered that Mr. Donelon had sent text messages from his company cellular phone to his girlfriend claiming that he had responded to a shooting as part of his duties at NOPP, which was untrue. Lorenz also discovered that he had used NOPP's computers to search for and purchase pills online. NOPP asserted that Stroud discovered straws inside Mr. Donelon's desk, which had been "cut and contained powered drug residue."[2]

         Further, Stroud searched Mr. Donelon's LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and discovered that the professional references he had provided to CCI were his friends who no longer worked at the same companies where they were employed along with Mr. Donelon or had not been his supervisors.

         On May 12, 2016, NOPP notified CCI that NOPP had terminated Mr. Donelon's employment and sought to enforce CCI's "90-Day Replacement Guarantee."[3] CCI presented NOPP with a candidate, whom NOPP rejected. After an email exchange between NOPP and CCI regarding Mr. Donelon's placement and termination, CCI terminated its contractual agreement with NOPP. CCI offered to refund NOPP 75% of its fee.[4] Dissatisfied with the lack of a replacement candidate and wanting a complete refund, NOPP filed a petition for damages against CCI for breach of contract, in which NOPP claimed that CCI breached its contractual obligation by "failing to adequately screen Mr. Donelon and verify his background and references." ...


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