WAYNE J. MENDOZA, SR.
LISA ALLEN MENDOZA
FROM ST. BERNARD 34TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT NO. 88-049,
DIVISION "D" Honorable Kirk A. Vaughn, Judge
A. Tabary, III TABARY AND BORNE, LLC COUNSEL FOR
Michael C. Ginart, Jr. Nicholas N.S. Cusimano Joyce D. Young
LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL C. GINART, JR. AND ASSOCIATES COUNSEL
composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Roland L. Belsome,
Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins, and
Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods
CABRINA JENKINS, JUDGE
community property partition suit, appellant Lisa Allen
Mendoza ("Lisa") seeks reversal of the trial
court's July 27, 2016 judgment denying Lisa's demand
for reimbursement from her ex-husband, appellee Wayne J.
Mendoza, Sr. ("Wayne"), of Road Home funds she used
to rebuild their co-owned house that was destroyed by
Hurricane Katrina. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
21, 1989, the Mendozas were married in St. Bernard Parish,
where they established their matrimonial domicile. On August
22, 1993, during their marriage, the Mendozas purchased
immovable property located at 3716 Gallo Drive in Chalmette,
Louisiana (the "Property") for $73, 395.00. In
January 1995, the Mendozas paid off their mortgage loan on
the Property using settlement funds that Wayne received from
a work-related injury.
24, 1999, Lisa filed a Petition for Divorce, and she was
awarded the temporary exclusive use and occupancy of the
Property. On January 28, 2000, the court entered a Judgment
of Divorce. More than five years later, on August 29, 2005,
the Property was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. At the time,
Lisa was the sole occupant of the Property; Wayne was living
in Metairie, Louisiana.
Hurricane Katrina, Lisa applied for a grant from the Road
Home program to rebuild the Property. The Road Home
program requires applicants to provide documents verifying
ownership, such as a title policy, deed, mortgage, or tax
bill. The record does not reflect which
documents Lisa submitted to Road Home to verify ownership of
of the grant process, Lisa signed a series of documents: (1)
a "Road Home Grant Recipient Affidavit" ("Road
Home Affidavit"); (2) a "Road Home Program Grant
Agreement" ("Grant Agreement"); and (3) a
"Road Home Declaration of Covenants Running With the
Road Home Affidavit, Lisa attested that she was the sole
"owner-occupant" of the Property on the date of
Hurricane Katrina, that the Property was her primary
residence, and that she was currently the owner of the
Property. Although the Property was community property
acquired during their marriage, Lisa did not identify Wayne
as an "owner." In the Road Home Affidavit, Lisa
certified that all information provided in the grant
application and closing documents was true to the best of her
grant closing on May 8, 2007, Lisa executed a Grant Agreement
in which she is again identified as the sole
"homeowner." The Grant Agreement specifies that its
purpose is to "provide compensation for damages incurred
by the Homeowner(s) due to Hurricane Katrina." The Grant
Agreement states that "[t]he proceeds of the Grant will
be disbursed in one lump sum directly to the
Homeowner(s)." Although the agreement contains a space
to identify any "co-homeowner, " this space is left
blank. Again, Lisa certified that all information that she
provided to Road Home was true to the best of her knowledge.
Covenants, Lisa is again identified as the sole owner of the
Property. The Covenants provide as follows:
NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of receipt of all
Grant proceeds as compensation for damages incurred by the
Owner due to the Hurricanes, and in order to mitigate further
future damage from hurricanes and similar natural disasters,
Owner hereby makes the following Covenants and
agreements with respect to the Property, which Covenants and
agreements shall constitute covenants and restrictions
running with and encumbering the Property. (Emphasis
Covenants include: (1) an agreement not to sell, assign,
transfer or otherwise dispose of the Property for three years
unless the transfer is made pursuant to the Covenants, and
the transferee agrees to abide by the Covenants and assume
the owner's obligations under the Covenants and the Grant
Agreement; (2) an agreement not to use or occupy the Property
except as a primary residence; (3) an agreement to obtain
hazard insurance on the Property for three years; and (4) an
agreement to obtain flood insurance if the Property is
located in a Special Flood Hazard Area.
Covenants further provide:
Covenants Running With the Property: These
Covenants shall constitute covenants running with the
Property and shall be binding upon the Owner, and are
intended to create negative predial servitudes,
predial servitudes, and restrictions on alienation.
owner does not comply with the Covenants, "the entire
amount of the Grant shall be immediately due and payable,
without notice or demand." The Covenants further provide
that any judgment obtained against a defaulting owner for
breach of the Covenants "shall act as a judicial
mortgage against the Property from and after the date of
recordation." The Covenants are to be recorded in the
parish in which the property is located.
the closing, the Road Home program disbursed $128, 180.00 in
grant funds to Lisa. At trial, Lisa submitted a list of
repairs she made to the Property totaling $125, 136.00. Lisa
testified that she did not pay any money "out of
pocket" for these repairs.
March 11, 2015, Wayne filed a "Petition to Partition
Immovable Property by Licitation" ("Petition")
naming Lisa as the defendant. Wayne filed a detailed
descriptive list declaring the Property as the only community
asset, which he valued at $200, 000.00. Wayne also requested
rental reimbursement from Lisa. Lisa filed a detailed
descriptive list valuing the Property at $140, 000.00, and
requesting reimbursement of $75, 000.00 in "separate
funds" she used to repair the Property.
partition trial was held on March 9, 2016. On July 27, 2016,
the trial court rendered a judgment: (1) ordering a partition
by licitation of the Property; (2) denying Wayne's
request for rental payment; and (3) denying Lisa's
request for reimbursement of one-half of the Road Home funds
she used to repair the Property. In its judgment, the trial
court concluded that Lisa had "failed to prove any
expenditures of funds for which she is entitled to
reimbursement." Lisa suspensively appealed the judgment.
court's rulings regarding the partitioning of community
property are reviewed under the "manifest error"
standard, granting great discretion to the trial court.
Smith v. Smith, 15-1231, p. 2 (La.App. 4 Cir.
9/14/16), 200 So.3d 1007, 1009. "Applying this standard
requires that 'we must first find from the record that
there is a reasonable factual basis for the lower court's
findings of fact; second, the record must establish that the
lower court's findings are not manifestly erroneous or
clearly wrong.'" Id., 15-1231, p. 2, 200
So.3d at 1009-10 (quoting Mazzini v. Strathman,
13-0555, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/16/14), 140 So.3d 253, 256).
We review the trial court's legal conclusions in a
partition action de novo. Noel v. Noel,
04-0105, p. 7 (La.App. 4 Cir. 9/8/04), 884 So.2d 615, 619.
of Road Home Funds
contends that the trial court erred in finding that the money
from the Road Home program was a "grant to both owners
of the property to restore the property."  According to
Lisa, the Road Home money was her "separate
property" because she was the "only party that went
through the application process, met the qualifications,
received the funds, contractually obligated herself to either
pay back the funds or fulfill certain conditions, and then
satisfied her contractual obligations."
decide, therefore, whether the Road Home grant money is
Lisa's "separate property" or whether Wayne has