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Soileau v. Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Co., LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

June 13, 2018

JOHN L. SOILEAU, ET AL.
v.
CHURCHILL DOWNS LOUISIANA HORSERACING COMPANY, LLC, CHURCHILL DOWN LOUISIANA VIDEO POKER COMPANY, LLC JOHN L. SOILEAU, ET AL.
v.
CHURCHILL DOWNS LOUISIANA HORSERACING COMPANY, LLC, CHURCHILL DOWN LOUISIANA VIDEO POKER COMPANY, LLC

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2014-03873, DIVISION "G-11" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge

          William L. Townsend, III Thomas T. Townsend Keenan K. Kelly KELLY & TOWNSEND, LLC J. Chris Guillet Ronald E. Corkern, Jr. CORKERN, CREWS & GUILLET, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS

          David F. Waguespack Matthew J. Fantaci CARVER, DARDEN, KORETZKY, TESSIER, FINN, BLOSSMAN & AREAUX, LLC John L. Duvieilh Catherine Darden JONES WALKER, LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES

          (Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Paula A. Brown)

          ROLAND L. BELSOME, JUDGE

         This appeal stems from a trial court judgment affirming the administrative decision of the Louisiana State Racing Commission (the "Commission"), which granted an exception of no right of action and dismissed the Plaintiffs' lawsuit. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand the case to the Commission for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The instant litigation was the subject of a previous appeal to this Court, wherein we summarized the factual and procedural background as follows:

This lawsuit constitutes complicated and protracted litigation involving a dispute in the horse racing industry between … [quarter-horsemen] and Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Company, LLC, owner of the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots facility in New Orleans, and Churchill Downs Louisiana Video Poker Company, LLC.[1] The crux of the dispute relates to the distribution of supplemental purse monies collected in off track facilities.
On April 21, 2014, John L. Soileau, Jo Baia Foreman, Alvin Brossett, Justin Dehart, Kenneth L. Roberts, John E. Hamilton, Danny Lavergne, Donald Watson, Joseph D. Manucy and Lucan P. Constantin, file[d] a "Petition for Declaratory Judgment, Permanent Injunction, and Damages-Class Action." The plaintiffs were collectively represented as quarter-horse[men] … who have won purses at the Fair Grounds Race Track since the effective date of La. R.S. 27:438 and its predecessor statutes since 2008. The petition named … [the Fair Grounds] as a "device owner" for purposes of Louisiana law as defendants.
The original plaintiffs filed an amended petition adding HBPA as a defendant.[2] The trial court sustained the exception of primary jurisdiction and ordered the matter referred to the Louisiana Racing Commission for adjudication.[3]
Several exceptions were filed in the Louisiana State Racing Commission's proceeding including an exception of no right of action. That exception was sustained by the Commission in an administrative decision dismissing this lawsuit with prejudice. The matter went to the district court on an appeal of that Administrative Order. … [T]he trial court rendered a judgment affirming the Louisiana State Racing Commission's decision.

Soileau, et al. v. Churchill Downs Louisiana Horse Racing Co., LLC, et al, 17- 0264, slip op. at pp. 1-2 (La.App. 4 Cir. 8/23/2017) (unpub.).

         In the prior appeal, this Court dismissed the Plaintiffs' case without prejudice.[4] On remand, the trial court rendered a judgment, which was subsequently amended to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice.[5] The Plaintiffs filed appeals from both judgments. This Court consolidated the two appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When reviewing an administrative decision, the district court functions as an appellate court. Since no deference is owed by the appellate court to the district court's fact findings or legal conclusions, the appellate court need only review the findings and decision of the administrative agency. Garber v. City of New Orleans Through City Planning Comm 'n, 16-1298, p. 6 (La.App. ...


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