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Reed v. Hawley

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

August 1, 2018

DENISE T. REED
v.
WESLEY E. HAWLEY

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-00989, DIVISION "E" Honorable Clare Jupiter, Judge.

          GERALD J. CALOGERO CALOGERO LAW FIRM, P.L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          MICHAEL J. WINSBERG JESSICA BACH LAW OFFICES OF WINSBERG & WINSBERG COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Rosemary Ledet

          JAMES F. MCKAY III CHIEF JUDGE.

         In this case (which includes tortious elements, breach of contract and donation law claims), involving the alleged conversion of a thoroughbred racehorse, the trial court ruled in favor of the defendant, Wesley E. Hawley, and against the plaintiff, Denise T. Reed.[1] [2] For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In January of 2013, Wesley Erik Hawley met Denise T. Reed and the two became romantically involved in March of 2013 and eventually were engaged to be married. Mr. Hawley was a widower and a thoroughbred horse trainer/owner with over twenty years experience.

         On September 4, 2013, Mr. Hawley attended a thoroughbred horse sale through Equine Sales Company, in Opelousas, Louisiana, where he purchased a filly named "Clever Sue" for $4, 000.00. In April of 2014, Mr. Hawley placed Ms. Reed's name as the owner on the horse's registration papers, which had been mailed to him as the buyer/owner.

         In September of 2014, the couple ended their relationship and called off the wedding. Thereafter, on September 25, 2014, Mr. Hawley signed Ms. Reed's name on the ownership papers, transferring the paper title back to himself. At this point, Clever Sue had never run a race and the expenses for her maintenance were already over $20, 000.00. Since that time, the horse has run several races and has won some prize money. All costs of purchasing and maintaining the horse have been paid solely by Mr. Hawley.

         Ms. Reed filed an original and supplemental petition under theories of conversion, fraud, breach of contract and negligence per se, due to Mr. Hawley's alleged forgery of her signature on the official registration papers for a thoroughbred racehorse. She contended that she was the owner of the racehorse at all pertinent times. She sought damages in the amount of the purse money earned by the horse. She also sought damages for inconvenience. Mr. Hawley filed a reconventional demand against Ms. Reed, seeking the return of an engagement ring, a trophy and pictures.

         A trial on the merits took place on June 19 and 20, 2017. At the conclusion of trial, the court ruled in Mr. Hawley's favor on Ms. Reed's claims relating to ownership of the racehorse and right to purse money. The court ruled in Ms. Reed's favor with regard to Mr. Hawley's reconventional demand. The court signed a judgment on July 11, 2017. On July 17, 2017, Ms. Reed filed a motion for new trial, which was denied on October 26, 2017. Ms. Reed now appeals the trial court's judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal, Ms. Reed raises the following assignments of error: 1) the trial court erred by finding that Mr. Hawley owned the filly at any time; 2) the trial court committed a legal error when it applied the manual delivery rule of La. C.C. art. 1543 to incorporeal movables - ownership and Jockey Club certificate - and by failing to follow Supreme Court of Louisiana precedent; 3) the trial court erred by making factual findings which do not have evidentiary support in the record; 4) the trial court committed a second legal error when it equated ...


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