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In re Succession of Davisson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 23, 2018

IN RE: SUCCESSION OF ANDREW DAVISSON, SHARON COX AND MICHAEL COX Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
JORDON DAVISSON Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 152850 Honorable Parker Self, Judge

          MICHAEL D. COX SHARON COX KEAN MILLER, LLP By: Scott L. Zimmer

          Michael D. Cox, sui juris In Proper Person Counsel for Appellee

          Before BROWN, MOORE, and PITMAN, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         The plaintiffs, Sharon and Michael Cox, appeal a judgment that sustained exceptions of no cause of action, no right of action, and res judicata, and dismissed their claims against Jordon Davisson for money lent and services rendered to Jordon's father, Andrew Davisson, prior to his death. We affirm.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In 2012, Andrew Davisson was a 42-year-old man with serious mental health and drinking issues. For several years, he lived with his mother; at some point, they retained Michael Cox, an attorney in Bossier City, for various unspecified legal issues. The mother died in early 2012, and in March of that year, Andrew hired Michael to represent him in his mother's succession. Andrew also agreed to let Michael's wife, Sharon Cox, help him with his personal affairs, which included managing his own house, in Bossier City, his late mother's house, four doors down, and his grandmother's house, in Shreveport.

         According to their petition, the Coxes rendered extraordinary services, helping Andrew renovate all three houses, negotiating the sale (to Sharon) of partial interests in the houses, lending him thousands of dollars, and providing general financial management. In May 2012, Andrew wrote an olographic will that disinherited his son, Jordon, for striking him, and left his entire estate to Sharon.

         Andrew died in February 2014. Twelve days later, Sharon filed a petition to probate the olographic will; Michael signed the petition as Sharon's attorney. Jordon, the disinherited son, contested the will on grounds that Andrew lacked testamentary capacity and that the Coxes had wielded undue influence over him in his declining days; he also contended the sales of real estate to Sharon lacked adequate consideration.

         After a three-day bench trial, the district court agreed with Jordon, finding that Andrew lacked physical and mental capacity to execute the will and that the will was the product of undue influence by the Coxes. The court also declared the sales of real estate to Sharon null and void for Michael's failure to use proper notarial form. A motion for reconsideration was filed by "Movers, Sharon Cox and Michael Cox, " alleging that "both are judgment debtors." The district court denied reconsideration.

         Sharon appealed. This court ruled that the record did not support the finding of Andrew's lack of testamentary capacity, but that it did support the finding of undue influence and the nullity of the cash sales. The Supreme Court denied Sharon's writ application. Succession of Davisson, 50, 830 (La.App. 2 Cir. 12/22/16), 211 So.3d 597, writ denied, 2017-0307 (La. 4/7/17), 218 So.3d 111.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Twenty days later, Sharon and Michael filed the instant petition against Jordon, as "successor to the estate of Andrew Davisson" and who has "presumably accepted same." The Coxes traced a long and intricate narrative of their relationship with Andrew. In their telling, Andrew was the true manipulator, drawing them into an ever-deepening commitment of legal and personal services, in exchange for the understanding that he would remember them in his will. The Coxes recited items of uncompensated professional services ...


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