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Harrison v. Nature's Way Safety Solutions, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 4, 2018

ANDREW J. HARRISON, JR.
v.
NATURE'S WAY SAFETY SOLUTIONS, LLC AND JULES A. SIMON

          Appealed from the 19th Judicial District Court in and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana Trial Court No. C642425 Honorable William A. Morvant, Judge

          W. BRETT MASON PHILLIP A. WITTMANN MATTHEW S. ALMON NEW ORLEANS, LA ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF -APPELLEE ANDREW J. HARRISON, JR.

          LEE HERRINGTON BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT -APPELLANT JULES A. SIMON

          MURPHY J. FOSTER, III B. TROY VILLA SUNNY MAYHALL WEST BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANTS -APPELLEES NATURE'S WAY INVESTMENTS, LLC, DONALD J. DAVIS & DAVIS MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC.

          D. SCOTT RAINWATER MICHAEL M. THOMPSON BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT -APPELLEE WENDELL SPENCER

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.

          PETTIGREW, J.

         In this suit for payment of amounts due under several loan agreements, a defendant appeals a partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff based on the defendant's personal guaranties. Because the judgment appealed is not a valid final judgment, we dismiss the appeal.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff, Andrew Harrison, Jr., filed a petition for payment of amounts allegedly due under two Business Loan Agreements and two Personal Guaranty Agreements, all executed February 24, 2014, which purported to memorialize prior agreements between the parties. The first Business Loan Agreement involved a loan made on October 1, 2013, by Harrison to Nature's Way Safety Solutions, LLC ("Nature's Way"). In this agreement, Nature's Way promised to pay Harrison the principal amount of $350, 000.00, "together with interest in an amount up to 100% of the principal of this Loan." The second Business Loan Agreement involved a second loan made by Harrison to Nature's Way on October 25, 2013. In this agreement, Nature's Way promised to pay Harrison the principal amount of $200, 000.00, "together with interest in an amount equal to up to 100% of the principal of this Loan." Jules A. Simon, a member of Nature's Way who signed both Business Loan Agreements on behalf of Nature's Way, executed Personal Guaranty Agreements related to each of the Business Loan Agreements, guaranteeing payment of the entire outstanding indebtedness of Nature's Way under the Business Loan Agreements.

         Harrison filed a motion for partial summary judgment on November 21, 2016, on his claims against Simon arising out of the personal guaranties. After a hearing, the trial court granted Harrison's motion for partial summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Harrison and against Simon based on the Personal Guaranty Agreements. The judgment ordered Simon to pay Harrison $550, 000.00, "plus contractual interest from the date the loans were made until September 21, 2015, judicial interest from the date of judicial demand until paid in full, Plaintiff's court costs and Plaintiff's reasonable attorney's fees to be established by the Court through a post-judgment motion to be filed by Plaintiff."[1] The judgment was designated as a final judgment pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1915(B), [2] and Simon filed this devolutive appeal.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         Appellate courts have the duty to determine, sua sponte, whether their subject matter jurisdiction exists, even when the parties do not raise the issue. Perkins v. BBRC Investments, 14-0298, p. 3 (La.App. 1 Cir. 10/17/14), 205 So.3d 930, 932-33. Under Louisiana law, a final judgment is one that determines the merits of a controversy, in whole or in part. La. C.C.P. art. 1841. A final judgment must be identified as such by appropriate language. La. C.C.P. art. 1918. A valid judgment must be precise, definite, and certain. Gaten v. Tangipahoa Parish School System, 11-1133, p. 3 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/23/12), 91 So.3d 1073, 1074. 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. The amount of recovery should be determinable from a judgment without reference to an extrinsic source such as pleadings or reasons for judgment. Crockerham v. Weyerhaeuser Holden Wood Products, 16-0331, pp. 15-16 (La.App. 1 Or. 6/2/17), 223 So.3d 533, 543, writ denied, 17-1121 (La. 10/27/17), 228 So.3d 1232; Vanderbrook v. Coachmen Industries, Inc., 01-809, p. 12 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/10/02), 818 So.2d 906, 913.

         The August 10, 2017 judgment ordered Simon to pay Harrison "contractual interest from the date the loans were made until September 21, 2015, " an amount which is not determinable from the judgment without reference to extrinsic sources. Thus, the judgment is ambiguous, lacks appropriate decretal language, and cannot be considered a final judgment. See Perkins, 14-0298 at pp. 3-4, 205 So.3d at 933 (Judgment awarding "attorney's fees of 33 1/3% of [principal] and interest on [prior] judgment" was ambiguous, lacked appropriate decretal language, and cannot be considered a final judgment.). ...


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