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Wicker v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 21, 2018

JOY WICKER
v.
LOUISIANA FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY AND CATHY CRADDOCK

          Appealed from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana Trial Court No. C647972 Honorable Donald R. Johnson, Judge

          CRAIG A. GENTRY NEW ORLEANS, LA ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT JOY WICKER

          WILLIAM C. ROWE, JR. JOSEPH S. MANNING BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANTS -APPELLEES LOUISIANA FARM BUREAU AND CATHY CRADDOCK

          E' VINSKI L. DAVIS BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT -APPELLEE STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY

          BEFORE: PETTIGREW, WELCH, AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          PETTIGREW, J.

         In this appeal, plaintiff challenges the trial court's judgment sustaining a peremptory exception raising the objection of res judicata filed by defendants resulting in the dismissal of plaintiffs suit. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand this matter for further proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This matter arises out of an accident that occurred in Baton Rouge on May 14, 2015, involving vehicles driven by plaintiff, Joy Wicker, and defendant, Cathy Craddock. Over the course of this dispute, two suits have been filed - one in the Baton Rouge City Court ("City Court"), and a second in the 19th Judicial District Court ("19th JDC"). As the issue before us is whether the 19th JDC suit is barred by the doctrine of res judicata, we begin by setting forth the procedural history of the two suits below.

         On March 29, 2016, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm") filed suit in City Court against Mrs. Craddock and her liability insurer, Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company ("Farm Bureau"), alleging it was subrogated to the rights of its insured, Mrs. Wicker, for the losses it allegedly sustained as a result of the accident, including Mrs. Wicker's property damage, rental car payments, and medical payments. Farm Bureau filed an answer and reconventional demand against State Farm and Mrs. Wicker. Farm Bureau later amended its claim to assert a third-party demand against Mrs. Wicker rather than a reconventional demand, alleging it was legally and conventionally subrogated to Mrs. Craddock's rights to collect the damages she sustained in the accident.

         On April 29, 2016, Mrs. Wicker filed a separate suit in the 19th JDC against Farm Bureau and Mrs. Craddock (sometimes referred to hereinafter as "defendants"), seeking damages she sustained in connection with the accident. In response, Farm Bureau and Mrs. Craddock filed an exception raising the objection of lis pendens, arguing that the 19th JDC litigation involved the same parties and arose out of the same occurrence as the City Court action. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the lis pendens exception, signing a judgment accordingly on September 30, 2016. Farm Bureau and Mrs. Craddock filed a writ application in this court, seeking supervisory review of the 19th JDCs decision denying the lis pendens exception, which this court denied. Farm Bureau and Mrs. Craddock subsequently sought a writ of review with the Louisiana Supreme Court, which was also denied. Wicker v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, 2016-1451 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1/23/17) (unpublished writ action), writ denied, 2017-0360 (La. 4/13/17), 218 So.3d 120.

         The City Court action proceeded to trial on June 19, 2017, at which time the court heard the arguments of counsel and reviewed the law and evidence, including the pleadings of record and stipulations entered by the parties. The court signed a judgment on June 29, 2017, in favor of State Farm and against Farm Bureau and Mrs. Craddock in the amount of $7, 374.76, plus interest and costs. Farm Bureau's original reconventional demand and supplemental reconventional demand/third party demand were dismissed with prejudice.

         Thereafter, with the 19th JDC suit still pending, defendants filed an exception raising the objection of res judicata. Defendants argued that the 19th JDC suit should be dismissed as res judicata based on the "written and final judgment involving all the same named parties to this action arising from a trial on the merits" in City Court and that "[a]ll causes existing at the time of the [C]ity [C]ourt judgment are extinguished." Following a hearing, the trial court granted the exception without providing reasons. Mrs. Wicker filed a motion for new trial, which was denied. ...


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