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Jones v. American Home Assurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

June 27, 2018

GLORIA JONES
v.
AMERICAN HOME ASSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2014-00475, DIVISION "I-14" Honorable Piper D. Griffin, Judge

          JENKINS, J., CONCURS IN PART AND DISSENTS IN PART WITH REASONS Val P. Exnicios Kelsey L. Zeitzer LISKA EXNICIOS & NUNGESSER And Anthony D. Irpino IRPINO LAW FIRM And Mark P. Glago THE GLAGO LAW FIRM, LLC And Roderick R. Alvendia J. Bart Kelly, III Jeanne K. Demarest Amy C. Fontenot ALVENDIA KELLY & DEMAREST, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.

          Franklin David Beahm Christopher G. Otten BEAHM & GREEN, LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS.

          (Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins).

          Terri F. Love Judge.

         Touro Infirmary and its insurers (collectively "Touro") appeal the trial court's judgment that awarded Gloria Jones ("Ms. Jones") reimbursement costs and judicial interest. We find judicial interest began to accrue from the date of the filing of the class action lawsuit, in which Ms. Jones was a putative class member. Additionally, because the deposition and trial transcripts were used to impeach the witnesses called at trial in this case, we find no error in the trial court's award of reimbursement costs for the transcripts. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment granting Ms. Jones' motion to tax costs is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In July 2006, a class action lawsuit was filed by Cheryl Weems as the putative class representative against Touro for damages sustained during her mother's stay at Touro before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.[1] A class certification hearing was held, and class certification was denied by judgment in August 2013.[2]

         Thereafter, putative class members, including Ms. Jones, filed their individual lawsuits against Touro. Ms. Jones timely filed her petition for damages in January 2014. The trial court later found Touro liable in the amount of $30, 000 for damages Ms. Jones suffered. In the December 2016 judgment, Ms. Jones was also awarded costs and legal interest from the date of judicial demand, and Touro did not appeal.

         Ms. Jones subsequently filed a motion to tax costs to Touro and to determine legal interest owed. In support of her motion, Ms. Jones attached a copy of the itemization of the costs she incurred in bringing her suit to trial. She also attached affidavits certifying the accuracy of the costs and the December 2016 judgment that found Touro liable. Touro filed its opposition to the motion to tax costs, and a hearing on the motion was held.

         The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Ms. Jones and against Touro for judicial interest at the legal rate on the principal sum of $30, 000 awarded in the December 2016 judgment, commencing from the date of the filing of the putative class action on July 20, 2006, until the principal judgment was paid by Touro via deposit to the registry of the clerk of court on May 4, 2017. The trial court also awarded reimbursement costs for the clerk of court fees, sheriff fees, trial transcripts, deposition transcripts, and expert witnesses. Touro timely appeals the trial court's judgment that awarded judicial interest and reimbursement costs.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Touro raises two assigned errors on appeal: (1) the trial court erred in awarding Ms. Jones judicial interest from the date of the filing of the class action lawsuit; and (2) the trial court erred in awarding Ms. Jones one-half of the reimbursement costs for the depositions of Denice Eshleman and Suzanne Hoffpauir and one-half of the costs for the trial testimony of Scott Landry.

         Touro contends that the trial court misapplied the law in awarding judicial interest and reimbursement costs, which invokes this Court's de novo review. By contrast, Ms. Jones asserts that the trial court's ruling should be upheld because it is not clearly erroneous.

         On appeal, this Court applies a manifest error standard of review. When the issues presented on appeal raise mixed questions of fact and law, the manifest error standard applies. Ursin ex rel. Eusan v. Bd. of Levee Com'rs of Orleans Levee Dist. of State, 11-1105, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 9/26/12), 104 So.3d 534, 538 ("[A] mixed question of fact and law should be accorded great deference by appellate courts under the manifest error standard of review").

         JUDICIAL ...


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