Appeal from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court In and
for the Parish of Tangipahoa State of Louisiana No.
2010-0002845 The Honorable Jeffrey T. Oglesbee, Judge
R. Dillon April Ford Jackson Hammond, LA Attorneys for
Plaintiff/Appellee Jeffrey Mikal Berthelot
E. Heck Barrios Denham Springs, LA Attorney for
Defendant/Appellant Heather Leigh Berthelot
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.
appeal arises from a trial court judgment finding that
Heather Leigh Berthelot was unjustly enriched pursuant to La.
C.C. art. 2298. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
companion case, Berthelot v. Berthelot, 2017-1055,
(La.App. 1 Cir. 07/18/18), also rendered by this court,
contains a thorough recitation of the factual and procedural
background of the parties' ongoing litigation.
Leigh Berthelot and Jeffrey Mikal Berthelot were married on
July 10, 1999, and two children were born of the marriage. On
July 14, 2010, Jeffrey filed a petition for divorce. On
October 26, 2010, the trial court signed a stipulated
judgment, which ordered Jeffrey to maintain health insurance
coverage for the parties' two minor children. The
judgment further ordered that "Jeffrey ... maintain
Heather ... on his health insurance policy, until the divorce
[was] finalized, unless Heather ... [chose] to leave the
plan." Heather had been the policyholder of the
family's insurance since 2006 and the policy provided
additional coverage to Jeffrey and the two minor children.
The parties' divorce became final on January 23, 2012.
However, the parties remained cohabitating together until
April 17, 2015, the parties entered into another stipulated
judgment, ordering Jeffrey to "provide medical, dental
and vision insurance coverage for the minor children and [he]
shall be responsible for the payment of said premiums."
On May 27, 2015, Jeffrey filed a Rule to Clarify the
Stipulated Judgment, stating that because Heather was the
policyholder, only she had the authority to modify the
insurance policy. Jeffrey alleged that he could not open a
new insurance policy himself because of his preexisting
medical conditions. Jeffrey stated that Heather refused to
cooperate with the insurance company to have Jeffrey and the
two minor children separated into a different insurance
policy. Therefore, in order for Jeffrey to fulfill his court
ordered duty to pay for the two minor children's
insurance, he alleged that he also had to pay Heather's
insurance premiums because she refused to remove herself from
the insurance policy. From October 2014 through August 2016,
Jeffrey attempted several times to remove Heather from the
insurance policy, but was told that only Heather could make
this change since the insurance policy was in her name.
March 8, 2017, Jeffrey filed a Rule for Contempt of Court
against Heather for failing to reimburse him for paying for
her insurance premiums. Alternatively, Jeffrey argued that if
the trial court determined that Heather's actions did not
rise to the level of contempt, she had been unjustly enriched
by Jeffrey. Jeffrey argued that Heather was obligated to
reimburse him for the medical insurance premiums that he paid
on her behalf from October 2014 through August 2016. Jeffrey
argued that Heather was given notice and an opportunity to
reimburse him for the medical insurance premiums he paid on
her behalf; however, she refused to do so. In support of his
argument, Jeffrey attached an exhibit that listed the
payments he made on Heather's insurance premiums totaling
April 24, 2017, Jeffrey's Rule for Contempt was tried
along with his unjust enrichment claim. After hearing the
parties' testimonies, the trial court determined that
Heather "was enriched in the amount of $8, 224.80."
The trial court signed a judgment on May 22, 2017, in
accordance with its oral ruling, ordering Heather to pay
Jeffrey the sum of $150.00 per month beginning May 1, 2017,
until said amount of $8, 224.80 had been paid in full.
Heather suspensively appealed the trial court's May 22,
2017 judgment. In her appeal, Heather argues that the trial
court erred in ruling that Jeffrey met his burden of proving
that she was unjustly enriched.
unjust enrichment remedy is only applicable to fill a gap in
the law where no express remedy is provided. Mouton v.
State, 525 So.2d 1136, 1142 (La.App. 1 Cir.), writ
denied, 526 So.2d 1112 (La. 1988). Louisiana Civil Code
article 2298 provides that "[a] person who has been
enriched without cause at the expense of another person is
bound to compensate that person. The term 'without
cause' is used in this context to exclude cases in which
the enrichment results from a valid juridical act or the law.
The remedy declared is subsidiary and shall not be available
if the law provides another remedy for the impoverishment or
declares a contrary rule." To prevail on an unjust
enrichment claim, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance
of the evidence all five elements: (1) an enrichment; (2) an
impoverishment; (3) a connection between the enrichment and
the resulting impoverishment; (4) an absence of justification
or cause for the enrichment and impoverishment; and (5) the
lack of another remedy at law. Davis v. Elmer,
2014-1298 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/12/15), 166 So.3d ...