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LeBlanc v. Thibodeaux

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

September 26, 2018

RANDY LEBLANC
v.
FRED ALAN THIBODEAUX, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. MARTIN, NO. 82107, DIVISION "E" HONORABLE KEITH RAYNE JULES COMEAUX, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Jacques P. Soileau Soileau & Soileau Defendants/Appellees - Fred Alan Thibodeaux and Virginia Thibodeaux

          Harold D. Register, III Plaintiff/Appellant - Randy LeBlanc

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          ULYSSES GENE THIBODEAUX CHIEF JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Randy LeBlanc, appeals the judgment of the trial court granting an exception of prescription in favor of the defendants, Fred and Virginia Thibodeaux (Thibodeaux), in a dispute over an aborted business deal. Mr. LeBlanc alleges a ten-year prescription based on detrimental reliance and unjust enrichment, while Thibodeaux asserts a liberative prescription of three years arguing a claim for money owed. Finding no manifest error on the part of the trial judge, we affirm the judgment.

         I.

         ISSUES

         We must decide whether the trial court was manifestly erroneous in finding that the plaintiff's action against the defendants had prescribed and in dismissing the plaintiff's suit.

         II.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Virginia Thibodeaux owned a business called Country Windshields in Arnaudville, Louisiana. Her husband, Fred Thibodeaux, described himself as the shop foreman. Randy LeBlanc apparently owned LeBlanc's Automotive and Glass LLC in Lafayette. In February 2009, Randy LeBlanc and Fred Thibodeaux discussed the sale of Thibodeaux's windshield business to LeBlanc. Mr. LeBlanc alleges that the parties reached an agreement on an installment-type sale of the building for $3, 000 per month for twelve years. Mr. Thibodeaux states that he and Mr. LeBlanc discussed $3, 000 per month, but only as an estimate; that Mr. LeBlanc was in a hurry for some reason; that he (Mr. Thibodeaux) was not ready to finalize a contract to sell; that he had not "spoken to the boss" (Virginia Thibodeaux); and that negotiations were ongoing when the parties reached an impasse in May of 2009. It is undisputed that Mr. LeBlanc never paid any installments or monthly payments to Thibodeaux. Mr. Thibodeaux testified that there were never any signed papers; and that there was no agreement, no contract, and nothing final between them regarding a sale. The record contains no written contract or agreement between the parties.

         Around February of 2009, Mr. LeBlanc asked, and was given permission, to build offices in part of Thibodeaux's building. He incurred expenses in the form of lumber and material purchases for flooring, wiring, painting, electrical supplies, and labor. He also sent two of his employees to inspection school at the cost of $160 each. When the impasse on the sale price was reached in May of 2009, Mr. Thibodeaux agreed to pay for Mr. LeBlanc's expenditures, and he asked for LeBlanc's bills. The record contains an invoice dated May 7, 2009, from "LeBlanc's Automotive and Glass LLC" in Lafayette, listing materials and labor "Sold to" "Country Windshields" in St. Martinville. The total on the invoice is $14, 244.35. Mr. LeBlanc incorporated the text of this invoice into his petition and entered the invoice as "Plaintiff's Exhibit 1."

         Mr. LeBlanc's only other exhibit was a copy of a check dated May 8, 2009, written by payor "Country Windshields, Inc." to payee "LeBlanc's Automotive and Glass" in the amount of $14, 104.35, which Mr. LeBlanc entered as "Plaintiff's Exhibit 2." Mr. LeBlanc testified that a copy of Thibodeaux's check was faxed to him, but he never received the actual instrument/check.

         Mr. LeBlanc testified that he went to Thibodeaux's house and lawyer's office repeatedly, but never got paid. Mr. Thibodeaux testified that LeBlanc brought additional receipts; that Mr. Thibodeaux wrote an even larger check than the above-referenced; and that he called LeBlanc repeatedly to pick up the check at the lawyer's office, but LeBlanc would not answer his phone. In questioning Mr. LeBlanc, Mr. Thibodeaux's attorney asked if Mr. LeBlanc had refused to sign the release that accompanied the check, and Mr. LeBlanc indicated that was because the check was for only $6, 000 at that time. The only testimony given was that of Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Thibodeaux, and the only exhibits entered were those of the plaintiff described in the preceding paragraph.

         Mr. LeBlanc filed suit in November of 2014, over five years after the invoice/demand was given to Thibodeaux in May of 2009. Thibodeaux brought an exception of prescription. After some initial no-shows by the plaintiff and/or his lawyer, the exception was tried, with the above testimony and evidence entered into the record. The trial court granted the exception, and Mr. LeBlanc filed the appeal now under review.

         III.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

Ordinarily, the exceptor bears the burden of proof at the trial of the peremptory exception. Campo v. Correa, 01-2707, p. 7 (La. 6/21/02), 828 So.2d 502, 508. However, if prescription is evident on the face of the pleadings, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show the action has not prescribed. [Id.]; Williams v. Sewerage & Water Bd. of New Orleans, 611 So.2d 1383, 1386 (La.1993). If evidence is introduced at the hearing on the peremptory exception of prescription, the district court's findings of fact are reviewed under the manifest error-clearly wrong standard of review. Stobart v. State, Through DOTD, 617 So.2d 880, 882 (La.1993). If the findings are reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, an appellate court may not reverse even though convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently. Id. at 882-83.

Carter v. Haygood, 04-646, pp. 8-9 (La. 1/19/05), 892 So.2d 1261, ...


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