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Mitchell v. Aaron's, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 21, 2018

NATHAN AND SHARON MITCHELL D/B/A SHAPES GYM
v.
AARON'S, INC. AND WAL-MART STORES, INC.

          On appeal from the Twenty-Third Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Ascension State of Louisiana Docket No. 117, 217 Honorable Alvin Turner, Jr., Judge Presiding

          Marvin Gros Stacey B. Stephens Martin K. Maley Donaldsonville, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants Nathan and Sharon Mitchell d/ b/ a Shapes Gym.

          Thomas J. Eppling Craig W. Brewer Sara P. Scurlock Metairie, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Aaron' s, Inc.

          Michael W. Rutledge James G. Albertine, III New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, THERIOT, AND PENZATO, J J.

          THERIOT, J.

         The owners and operators of a business appeal a judgment sustaining an objection of res judicata to dismiss their damage claims against neighboring businesses due to the flooding of their business property. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Nathan and Sharon Mitchell ("the Mitchells") own property and a business called Shapes Gym, located in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. On October 17, 2016, the Mitchells filed a petition for damages against Aaron's, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (collectively "the defendants"), alleging that on various dates from October 25, 2015 to August 10, 2016, Shapes Gym was "inundated with rain water with about six inches of water in the building." The Mitchells alleged the flooding was caused by the defendants' faulty construction of buildings and subsurface drainage, failure to maintain drainage ditches, and violation of the natural servitude of drainage.

         In response to the Mitchells' petition, the defendants filed separate peremptory exceptions raising the objection of res judicata, asserting that the Mitchells had filed a previous lawsuit in the same court alleging the same acts of negligence against the same defendants. As the dismissal of the prior lawsuit against the defendants by summary judgment was affirmed on appeal, the defendants urged the dismissal of the newly-filed petition under the doctrine of res judicata. Following a hearing on the exceptions, the trial court sustained the objection of res judicata and rendered judgment on September 12, 2017, dismissing the Mitchells' claims against the defendants with prejudice. This appeal followed.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         The Mitchells assign the following as error:

1. The Trial Court committed legal error by granting Defendant[s]-Appellees' Exception of Res Judicata.
2. The Trial Court committed legal error by failing to address Nathan and Sharon Mitchell[s'] damages caused by Appellees' blatant, gross and negligent actions in failing to prevent the flow of water on ...

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