APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 763-644, DIVISION
"F" HONORABLE MICHAEL P. MENTZ, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, TONYEL SINGLETON Gregory J.
Chiartano Donald C. Douglas, Jr.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, UNITED SERVICES AUTOMOBILE
ASSOCIATION William H. Dunckelman, Jr. T. Gregory Schafer
composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg
Wicker, Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, Robert A. Chaisson,
Stephen J. Windhorst, Hans J. Liljeberg, and John J.
G. GRAVOIS JUDGE
Tonyel Singleton, appeals a trial court judgment that granted
a peremptory exception of res judicata filed by
defendant/appellee, United Services Automobile Association
("USAA"). For the reasons that follow, we reverse
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
1, 2015, Tonyel Singleton was involved in an automobile
accident with Jamie Lynn Petkovich. No suit was filed against
Ms. Petkovich or her liability insurer, State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"). On
August 5, 2016, Ms. Singleton executed a release, in
consideration of State Farm's liability policy limits of
$15, 000.00, which stated, in pertinent part:
the undersigned hereby releases and forever discharges Louis
Petkovich, Julie Petkovich, Jayna Petkovich, Jamie Lynn
Petkovich and State Farm Mutual, their heirs, executors,
administrators, agents and assigns, and all other
persons, firms or corporations liable or, who might be
claimed to be liable, none of whom admit any liability
to the undersigned but all expressly deny any liability, from
any and all claims, demands, damages, actions, causes of
action or suits of any kind or nature whatsoever, and
particularly on account of all bodily injuries, known and
unknown, which has resulted or may in the future develop from
an accident which occurred on or about the 1st day of July,
2015, at or near, Gretna, LA.
August 5, 2016, Ms. Singleton filed a petition for damages
against USAA, her uninsured/underinsured motorist
("UM") insurer. In due course, on August 4, 2017,
USAA filed a peremptory exception of res judicata
asserting that the clear and unambiguous language of the
release, discharging "all other persons, firms or
corporations liable or, who might be claimed to be
liable," demonstrated Ms. Singleton's intent to
release and discharge USAA from the causes of action asserted
against it in her petition.
Singleton filed an opposition to the exception, arguing that
the release was a relative simulation and that by looking outside
of the release, specifically to correspondence between Ms.
Singleton and State Farm, and between Ms. Singleton and USAA,
the true intent of the parties was revealed-that Ms.
Singleton released State Farm and its insureds in exchange
for State Farm's policy limits and never intended to
compromise her claims against USAA. Ms. Singleton also argued
that regardless of the intent, res judicata is not
applicable in this case since USAA was not a party to the
a hearing, by written judgment rendered and signed on
September 7, 2017, the trial court granted the peremptory
exception of res judicata and dismissed all claims
against USAA with prejudice. This appeal followed.
appeal, Ms. Singleton argues that the trial court erred: 1)
in granting the exception of res judicata based on a
compromise raised by a non-party to that compromise; and 2)
in refusing to consider extrinsic evidence regarding the
intent of the parties to the compromise when there is
evidence in the record substantiating that she did not intend
to compromise her claim against USAA for UM benefits.
Louisiana law, a release executed in exchange for
consideration is a compromise. Tran v. Farmers and
Merchants Ins. Co., 04-793 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/14/04),
892 So.2d 88, 89, writ denied, 05-147 (La. 4/1/05),
897 So.2d 604. La. C.C. art. 3071 defines a compromise as a
contract whereby the parties, through concessions made by one
or more of them, settle a dispute or an uncertainty
concerning an obligation or other legal relationship. A
compromise settles only those differences that the parties
clearly intended to settle, including the necessary
consequences of what they express. La. C.C. art. 3076. A
compromise precludes the parties from bringing a subsequent
action based upon the matter that was compromised. La. C.C.
art. 3080. The compromise instrument is governed by the same
general rules of construction applicable to contracts.
Ortego v. State, Dept. of Transp. and Dev., 96-1322
(La. 2/25/97), 689 So.2d 1358, 1363. While the doctrine of
res judicata is ordinarily premised ...