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Haber v. Ocean Canyon Properties, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 31, 2018

BOB HABER
v.
OCEAN CANYON PROPERTIES, INC.

          Appealed from the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Suit Number 2016-13028 Honorable Peter J. Garcia, Presiding

          J. Michael Rhymes Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Monroe, LA Bob Haber

          Kailey L. LeBoeuf Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Susanne Cambre Ocean Canyon Properties, Inc. Metairie, LA

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.

          GUIDRY, J.

         Plaintiff, Bob Haber, appeals from a trial court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, Ocean Canyon Properties, Inc. (Ocean Canyon). For the reasons that follow, we reverse and render.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Haber was hired by Ocean Canyon in August 2014 to work as its Operations Manager in Abita Springs. Haber began working for Ocean Canyon on August 27, 2014, with an annual salary of $35, 000.00, or $134.62/day. However, on September 1, 2014, Ocean Canyon terminated Haber's employment. On the same date, Haber informed representatives of Ocean Canyon, Jim Wofford and Renea Daley, that his final paycheck should be mailed to his home.

         Thereafter, on November 6, 2014, counsel for Haber mailed a letter to Ocean Canyon, which was received on November 10, 2014, stating that at the time of Haber's termination on September 1, 2014, he was owed approximately $2, 000.00 in wages, which Ocean Canyon had failed to pay. As such, counsel made a demand for the unpaid wages, as well as for ninety days penalty wages. In response to the demand, on November 13, 2014, Ocean Canyon tendered two checks to Haber: a check in the amount of $1, 128.80 for past due wages and a settlement check in the amount of $1, 038.46 for four days penalty wages and attorney fees. Haber thereafter negotiated the check for past due wages.

         On July 22, 2016, Haber filed a petition for damages, naming Ocean Canyon as defendant, asserting that he had instructed Ocean Canyon to mail his final paycheck to his home, and thereafter, his attorney had made written demand in November 2014 for payment of wages due and owing, plus ninety days penalty wages. Haber asserted that while Ocean Canyon had subsequently paid the past due wages, it had not made an unconditional tender of the ninety days penalty wages and reasonable attorney fees. Accordingly, Haber requested judgment in his favor in an amount equal to ninety days penalty wages plus reasonable attorney fees.

         Ocean Canyon answered Haber's petition and thereafter filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that there is no genuine issue as to material fact that Haber made his first demand for past due wages on November 10, 2014, and Ocean Canyon tendered past due wages on November 13, 2014. As such, Ocean Canyon asserted that Haber is only entitled to recover penalty wages for four days.

         Haber also filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that his notification to representatives of Ocean Canyon that he wanted his final paycheck to be mailed to his home constituted a demand for payment within the meaning of La. R.S. 23:632, entitling him to ninety days penalty wags and reasonable attorney fees.

         Following a hearing on both motions, the trial court granted Ocean Canyon's motion, finding Ocean Canyon liable to Haber for $538.48 in penalty wages, denied Haber's claim for attorney's fees; denied Haber's motion for summary judgment; and dismissed the matter in its entirety, with prejudice. Haber now appeals from the trial court's judgment, asserting that the trial court erred in: awarding only a portion of the penalty wages claimed, denying attorney fees for the prosecution of the wage claim, and denying his motion for summary judgment and dismissing his suit.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard ...


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