Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hoddinott v. Hoddinott

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

August 1, 2018

JO SCHERNBECK HODDINOTT
v.
REGINALD KENNING HODDINOTT, III

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-08198, DIVISION "G-11" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge.

          Kim S. Sport ATTORNEY AT LAW, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

          Marc D. Winsberg Robin Penzato Arnold Jonathan D. Gamble WINSBERG & ARNOLD, LLC, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

          Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Paula A. Brown

          Paula A. Brown Judge.

         This appeal involves a tort action between the plaintiff, Jo Schernbeck Hoddinott ("Plaintiff"), and the defendant, Reginald Kenning Hoddinott, III ("Defendant"). Plaintiff and Defendant were married. Following the finality of their divorce, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Damages against Defendant. Defendant filed a peremptory exception of res judicata. The district court granted Defendant's exception of res judicata and dismissed, with prejudice, Plaintiff's tort suit. For the reasons set forth herein, the district court's judgment is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 3, 2013, Defendant filed a Petition for Divorce Pursuant to La. Civ. Code Art. 102 ("Petition for Divorce"). In response to the Petition for Divorce, Plaintiff filed, on January 16, 2014, an Answer and Reconventional Demand for 102 Divorce with No Minor Children, Incidental Matter and Injunctive Relief. On August 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Supplemental and Amended Answer and Reconventional Demand ("Amended Reconventional Demand"). In the Amended Reconventional Demand, Plaintiff sought a divorce from Defendant pursuant to La. C.C. art. 103(4), alleging specific instances of domestic abuse by Defendant during the marriage.

         On September 3, 2014, a Judgment of Divorce was granted on Defendant's Petition for Divorce under Article 102. That same day, a Consent Judgment was entered by the parties and signed by the district court. The Consent Judgment provided for Defendant to pay rehabilitative spousal support in the amount of $4, 000.00 per month to Plaintiff for a period of thirty-six months with the stipulation that the rehabilitative spousal support not be terminated, increased, and/or decreased by either party "for any reason whatsoever." Additionally, the Consent Judgment provided in pertinent part:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that any claims made pursuant to Art. 103(4) for a divorce based on physical violence and/or Art. 113 for interim support based upon an Art. 103(4) divorce based on physical violence are hereby dismissed with prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that any claims made pursuant to Art. 112 and La. R.S. 9:327 for final periodic spousal support based upon domestic abuse are hereby dismissed with prejudice.

         On August 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed a petition seeking damages under La. C.C. art. 2315 ("the Petition").[1] The Petition set forth specific instances of domestic abuse during the marriage including those set forth in the Plaintiff's Amended Reconventional Demand. Plaintiff asserted that because of Defendant's actions, she suffered intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged:

[S]he has suffered severe emotional mental distress and numerous physical injuries as a result of the acts of domestic abuse and violence, controlling behavior and intimidation . . . including but not limited to bruises to her neck, back and arms, open wounds to her arms and legs, severe migraine headaches, depression, anxiety and PTSD and is entitled to recover special and general damages.

         Plaintiff prayed for damages including:

• past, present, and future psychological and medical treatment and expenses;
• general and compensatory damages for physical pain and suffering;
• damages for emotional, financial, and sexual abuse; and
• damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         On May 18, 2016, Defendant filed a peremptory exception of res judicata, and a hearing was held on July 22, 2016. On July 28, 2016, the district court rendered judgment in favor of Defendant, granting the exception of res judicata and dismissing the Petition with prejudice.

         Plaintiff timely appealed, and this Court, in a prior opinion, held that Defendant failed to properly introduce the record of the lawsuit and the underlying judgment on the res judicata claim. Hoddinott v. Hoddinott, 16-1059 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/19/17), 217 So.3d 540 ("Hoddinott I "). As a result, this Court vacated the judgment granting the exception and remanded the matter to the district court. On remand, a hearing was held on June 2, 2017. At the hearing, the entire record of the divorce proceedings was introduced by Defendant and admitted into evidence by the district court. Following the hearing, the district court granted the exception of res judicata, and rendered judgment on June 6, 2017. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, Plaintiff essentially makes two arguments-the district court erred in failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing, and the district court erred in granting the exception of res judicata.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Standard of review

         The standard of review of an exception of res judicata requires an appellate court to determine if the trial court's decision is legally correct or incorrect. Bd. of Sup'rs of Louisiana State Univ. v. Dixie Brewing Co., Inc., 14-0641, p. 6 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/19/14), 154 So.3d 683, 688 (citations omitted).

         Domestic abuse during the marriage

         The legislature established statutory provisions to address domestic abuse during a marriage. At the time of this suit, La. C.C art.103, as amended in 2014, allowed, except in the case of a covenant marriage, a divorce to be granted on the petition of a spouse upon proof that the other spouse "physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking divorce or a child of one of the spouses, regardless of whether the other spouse was prosecuted for the act of abuse." Additionally, La. C.C. art. 112(B) allowed a spouse, who had not been at fault prior to the filing of a petition for divorce and had been the victim of domestic abuse committed during the marriage, to be awarded final periodic support or a lump sum award, at the discretion of the court, in accordance with Subpart C of Article 112.[2] Subpart C(9) of Article 112 provided that one of the factors to be considered by the trial court to determine the amount and duration of final support was "the existence, effect, and duration of any act of domestic abuse committed by the other spouse upon the claimant, regardless of whether the other spouse was prosecuted for the act of domestic violence."[3]

         Spousal Immunity-La. R.S. 9:291

         Generally, spouses may not sue each other during the marriage, including filing suit seeking tort damages pursuant to La. C.C. 2315. La. R.S. 9:291 (footnote omitted) provides:

Spouses may not sue each other except for causes of action pertaining to contracts or arising out of the provisions of Book III, Title VI of the Civil Code; or restitution of separate property; for divorce or declaration of nullity of the marriage; and for causes of action pertaining to spousal support or the support or custody of a child while the spouses are living separate and apart..

         Res judicata

         "The doctrine of res judicata precludes re-litigation of all causes of action arising out of the same transaction or occurrence that were the subject matter of a prior litigation between the same parties." Contogouris v. Ocean Therapy Sols., LLC, 15-0472, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1/27/16), 187 So.3d 18, 21(citing Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Bd., 14-0329, 14-0330, pp. 20-21 (La. 10/31/14), 156 So.3d 596). La. R.S. 13:4231, amended in 1990 and effective January 1, 1991, codified the res judicata principle:

Except as otherwise provided by law, a valid and final judgment is conclusive between the same parties, except on appeal or other direct review, to the following extent:
(1) If the judgment is in favor of the plaintiff, all causes of action existing at the time of final judgment arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation are extinguished and merged in the judgment.
(2) If the judgment is in favor of the defendant, all causes of action existing at the time of final judgment arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation are extinguished and the judgment bars a subsequent action on those causes of action.
(3) A judgment in favor of either the plaintiff or the defendant is conclusive, in any subsequent action between them, with respect to any issue actually litigated and determined if its determination was essential to that judgment.

         There are two aspects of res judicata embraced by La. R.S. 13:4231 which this Court has explained as follows:

Louisiana Revised Statute 13:4231 embraces the broad usage of the phrase "res judicata" to include both claim preclusion (res judicata) and issue preclusion (collateral estoppel). Under claim preclusion, a res judicata judgment on the merits precludes the parties from relitigating matters that were or could have been raised in that action. Under issue preclusion or collateral estoppel, however, once a court decides an issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision precludes relitigation of the same issue in a different cause of action between the same parties. Thus, res judicata used in the broad sense has two different aspects: 1) foreclosure of relitigating matters that have never been litigated but should have been advanced in the earlier suit; and 2) foreclosure of relitigating matters that have been previously litigated and decided.

Maschek v. Cartemps USA, 04-1031, pp. 6-7 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/16/05), 896 So.2d 1189, 1193 (quoting Stroscher v. Stroscher, 01-2769, pp. 6-7 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/14/03), 845 So.2d 518, 525 (citing Certified Finance, Inc., v. Cunard, 01-0797, p. 4 (La.App. 1 Cir. 4/17/02)] 838 So.2d 1, 4)).

         In Oliver, the Supreme Court explained the impact of the 1990 amendment to La. R.S. 13:4231:

As the Official Comments note, the 1990 amendment to La. R.S. 13:4231 "makes a substantial change in the law," as under the prior statute, "a second cause of action would be barred by the defense of res judicata only when the plaintiff seeks the same relief based on the same cause of action or grounds." Under the revised statute, "[t]he central inquiry is . . . whether the second action asserts a cause of action which arises out of the transaction or occurrence which was the subject matter of the first action." "This serves the purpose of judicial economy and fairness by requiring the plaintiff to seek all relief and to assert all rights which arise out of the same transaction or occurrence." This is in line with La. C.C.P. art. 425, which also now requires that a party "shall assert all causes of action arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation." The Comments to Article 425 explain that Article 425 was amended at the same time as the res judicata statute and "expands the scope" of the Article to reflect those changes made to the res judicata statute and to put "the parties on notice that all causes of action arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation must be raised." Similarly, La. C.C.P. art. 891 was also amended to include the same "transaction or occurrence" language, requiring that a petition "shall contain a short, clear, and concise statement of all causes of action arising out of, and of the same material facts of, the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation."

Oliver, 14-0329, 14-330, pp. 20-21, 156 So.3d at 611-12 (footnotes omitted).

         Louisiana Revised Statute 13:4232 sets forth exceptions to res judicata:[4]

A.A judgment does not bar another action by the plaintiff:
(1)When exceptional circumstances justify relief from the res judicata effect of the judgment;
(2) When the judgment dismissed the first action without prejudice; or,
(3) When the judgment reserved the right of the plaintiff to bring another action.
B. In an action for divorce under Civil Code Article 102 or 103, in an action for determination of incidental matters under Civil Code Article 105, in an action for contributions to a spouse's education or training under Civil Code Article 121, and in an action for partition of community property and settlement of claims between spouses under R.S. 9:2801, the judgment has the effect of res judicata only as to causes of action actually adjudicated.

         In Louisiana, the doctrine of res judicata is "'stricti juris; any doubt regarding the application of the doctrine must be resolved against its application.'" BBCL Enterprises, LLC v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp., 15-0469, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/3/16), 187 So.3d 65, 68 (quoting Bd. of Sup'rs of Louisiana State Univ. v. Dixie Brewing Co., Inc., 14-0641, p. 6 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/19/14), 154 So.3d 683, 688). The burden is on the "'exceptor to prove the essential elements [of res judicata] by a preponderance of the evidence.'" Id. 15-0469, p. 4, 187 So.3d at 68 (quoting Igbokwe v. Moser, 12-1366, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/24/13), 116 So.3d 727, 730).

         With these precepts in mind, we conduct a de novo review of the district court's judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         Evidentiary hearing

         Plaintiff contends the district court failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing as instructed by this Court in Hoddinott I. In Hoddinott I, this Court held that to determine the merits of an exception of res judicata, "'the court must examine not only the pleadings of the case at hand but also the entire record in the first suit, to determine whether the availability of the particular form of relief sought in the second suit was actually ruled upon.'" Hoddinott I, 16-1059, p. 2, 217 So.3d at 541 (quoting Sewell v. Argonaut Southwest Ins. Co., 362 So.2d 758, 760 (La.1978)). Consequently, this Court vacated the district court's judgment granting the exception of res judicata and remanded the matter "[b]ecause the defendant/appellee failed to introduce the record of the lawsuit and judgment underlying his claim of res judicata into evidence at the hearing." Id., 16-1059, p. 2, 217 So.3d at 542.

         Following remand, the district court held a hearing at which Defendant introduced the entire record of the divorce proceedings. Finding that the district court complied with this Court's instructions in Hoddinott I, this claim ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.