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Taylor v. Cajun Constructors, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 2, 2018

MCKINLEY TAYLOR
v.
CAJUN CONSTRUCTORS, INC.

          APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. 2014-3448 HONORABLE ROBERT L. WYATT, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          APPEAL DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS. J. Craig Jones Jones & Hill, LLC Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee: McKinley Taylor

          Craig Ray Hill Jones & Hill, LLC Post Office Box Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee: McKinley Taylor

          Eric R. Miller, The Kullman Firm, Counsel for Defendant/Appellant: Cajun Constructors, Inc.

          Court composed of Phyllis M. Keaty, John E. Conery, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE.

         This court issued a rule ordering Appellant/Defendant, Cajun Constructors, Inc., to show cause, by brief only, why its appeal should not be dismissed for lack of a final judgment. See La.Code Civ.P. art. 2083. For the reasons that follow, we dismiss the suspensive appeal, but remand the matter with instructions and for supplementation.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff, McKinley Taylor, filed suit against Defendant for unpaid wages during his employment with Defendant as a carpenter from March 16, 2012, through March 19, 2013. Following a trial on the merits, on October 24, 2017, the trial court issued a six-page untitled document which appears to be written reasons for ruling as opposed to a final judgment. The trial court found therein that Taylor was never paid a per diem upon which the parties had agreed for his first week of work. The trial court also found that Defendant's failure to pay the daily per diem was not in good faith and awarded penalty wages and attorney fees as provided in La.R.S. 23:632.

         On December 4, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for suspensive appeal. The order of appeal was signed on January 11, 2018. In due course, the record was lodged in this court, at which time a rule was issued ordering Defendant to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed for the above-stated reason. Defendant timely filed its brief in response to the rule wherein it acknowledges that the October 24, 2017 written reasons for ruling did not contain the necessary decretal language, "ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, " as repeatedly suggested by this court. See GBB Props. Two, LLC v. Stirling Props., LLC, 17-384 (La.App. 3 Cir. 7/5/17), 224 So.3d 1001; Barlow v. Barlow, 13-1092 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/23/13), 161 So.3d 24; Parker v. S. Am. Ins. Co., 578 So.2d 1021 (La.App. 3 Cir.), rev'd on other grounds, 590 So.2d 55 (La.1991). Defendant also acknowledges there is no separate document apart from the written reasons as contemplated by La.Code Civ.P. art. 1918.

         Defendant explained that, faced with the uncertainty of a delay period for appealing the ruling as to liability, it "opted to preserve its right to appeal" the October 24, 2017 ruling. Nevertheless, it agrees that the subject ruling "does not appear to be a final appealable judgment according to this Court's precedent." Defendant also notes that the trial court has not yet determined the amount of attorney fees to be awarded. As such, Defendant requests that this court retain the lodged record, dismiss the appeal without prejudice, and remand the case to the trial court for the entry of a judgment, allowing reasonable time for the resolution of the attorney fees issue and supplementation of the record with the matters being docketed for final disposition by this court.

         DISCUSSION

         In Barlow, 161 So.3d at 26-27, this court addressed the exact issue herein:

"Appeals are taken from the judgment, not the written reasons for judgment." Greater New Orleans Expressway Comm'n v. Olivier, 02-2795, p. 3 (La.11/18/03), 860 So.2d 22, 24. "A final judgment shall be identified as such by appropriate language. When written reasons for the judgment are assigned, they shall be set out in an opinion separate from the judgment." La.Code Civ.P. art. 1918. "A judgment and reasons for judgment are two separate and distinct documents." Olivier, 860 So.2d at 24. "A valid judgment must be precise, definite, and certain. A final appealable judgment must contain decretal language, and it must name the party in favor of whom the ruling is ordered, the party against whom the ruling is ordered, and the relief that is granted or denied." State v. White, 05-718, p. ...

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