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Ryan Gootee General Contractors LLC v. Plaquemines Parish School Board

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

November 7, 2018

RYAN GOOTEE GENERAL CONTRACTORS LLC
v.
PLAQUEMINES PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

          APPEAL FROM 25TH JDC, PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES NO. 61-968, DIVISION "1" Honorable Michael D. Clement,

          Murphy J. Foster, III, Jacob E. Roussel COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE

          Daniel Lund, III, Stuart G. Richeson, Carys A. Arvidson COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          (Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Paula A. Brown)

          Paula A. Brown Judge

         This matter involves a dispute regarding the award of a public bid contract ("the Contract"). The Plaquemines Parish School Board and Denis Rousselle (collectively, the "School Board") appeal the district court's judgments which issued a writ of mandamus to award the Contract to appellee, Ryan Gootee General Contractors, Inc. ("Gootee") and granted Gootee attorney's fees and costs. Gootee's answer to the appeal ("Answer") seeks to increase the amount of attorney's fees and costs awarded. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PRODCEDURAL HISTORY

         This Court previously considered the underlying issues in this appeal in the matter of Ryan Gootee General Contractors LLC v. Plaquemines Parish School Board, unpub., 2015-0678 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/18/15), 2015 WL 7356420 ("Gootee I"). Accordingly, we adopt pertinent facts and the procedural history delineated in Gootee I in our review of the case sub judice as follows:

In September 2014, the School Board advertised for a bid contract for a public works construction project known as "South Plaquemines High School-Recreational Field House and Restroom- Concession Buildings" (hereinafter, "the Contract"). After the bids were opened, One Construction, LLC, was deemed the lowest bidder and Gootee's bid was the second lowest.
Gootee discovered that One Construction's bid proposal may not have included a certified copy of a resolution authorizing execution of the Contract by its authorized signatory, a violation of La. R.S. 38:2212(B)(5) of the Louisiana Public Bid Law. Gootee telephoned the School Board's architect about this alleged deficiency on October 24, 2014 and October 27, 2014; and on November 10, 2014, Gootee's counsel submitted a letter to the School Board's counsel to advise that One Construction's bid lacked a duly authorized signatory.
The School Board sent out a notice on November 4, 2014 advising that it would meet on November 10, 2014 to discuss the bid proposals. The Contract was awarded to One Construction on that date. Gootee was not present at the meeting.
Thereafter, on November 17, 2014, Gootee filed a "Petition For Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, Permanent Injunction, Mandamus, And Declaratory Judgment" against the School Board and One Construction in the 24th Judicial District for Jefferson Parish ["24th JDC"]. . . . Gootee requested that an injunction be issued, that the Contract be nullified, that it be designated the lowest responsive bidder, and that a mandamus issue to compel the School Board to award Gootee the Contract. . . .
In response, the School Board filed a Peremptory Exception Of Prescription/No Right Of Action, Declinatory Exception Of Improper Venue, Peremptory Exception Of No Cause Of Action, And Dilatory Exception of Improper Cumulation Of Actions. . . . The [School Board] argued that as a political subdivision, the mandatory venue requirements of La. R.S. 13:5104(B) dictate that venue for a suit against the School Board was only proper in the 25th Judicial District for the Parish of Plaquemines.
The trial court granted the School Board's exception to venue. Gootee's claims against the School Board were transferred to Plaquemines Parish. The trial court allowed all surviving claims against One Construction to remain in Jefferson Parish.
After a hearing, the 24th JDC trial court granted Gootee's request for preliminary injunction against One Construction. Gootee and One Construction consented to a permanent injunction in order to expedite the appeal process. One Construction filed a suspensive appeal of the judgment granting the permanent injunction to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.
Gootee's suit against the School Board was transferred to the 25th JDC for Plaquemines Parish in February 2015. At the same time, Gootee filed an Amended And Supplemental Petition for Mandamus And Damages["Amended Petition"] that added Denis Rousselle, the School Board's Superintendent, as a party defendant.[1]
Thereafter, Gootee filed a Motion For Writ of Mandamus [against the School Board]. The motion asked for a writ of mandamus to be directed to the School Board to award the Contract to Gootee and for an award of attorney's fees. [Gootee] averred that inasmuch as One Construction, the first low bidder, had been permanently enjoined from work on the Contract, that Gootee should be awarded the Contract as the legitimate, lowest responsible bidder.
The School Board filed exceptions of no cause of action and no right of action to Gootee's supplemental and amended petition. . . .
In its opposition to Gootee's Motion For Writ of Mandamus, the School Board iterated that the permanent injunction Gootee obtained against One Construction in the 24th JDC had no legal effect upon it or the 25th JDC trial court because the School Board was not a party to that action. The School Board emphasized that no injunctive relief had been obtained against the School Board before the Plaquemines Parish trial court. As to the merits of the Contract, the School Board averred that Gootee could not meet its burden of proof to show that the One Construction bid proposal was a nullity or that the School Board was arbitrary in its award of the Contract to One Construction.
Upon hearing argument on the School Board's exceptions of no right of action and no cause of action [the "Exceptions"] and Gootee's motion for mandamus, the trial court denied the School Board's exceptions and granted Gootee's motion for mandamus.
The School Board then filed the present appeal. Gootee's answer to the appeal sought attorney's fees and an adjustment in its bid price commensurate with potential costs and fees incurred by the delay in its award of the Contract.

Ryan Gootee, 2015-0678 at *1-3.

         Gootee I affirmed in part the district court's judgment that denied the School Board's Exceptions; reversed in part that portion of the judgment that granted the writ of mandamus; denied Gootee's request for attorney's fees and an adjustment in its bid price; and remanded the matter for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. Id., 2015-0678 at *6.

         On November 19, 2015, the day after the Gootee I judgment was rendered, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the 24th JDC judgments, finding in part that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting injunctive relief and determining that One Construction's bid proposal violated the Public Bid Law.[2]

         On April 21, 2016, the School Board filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Petition II as moot. The School Board asserted that it had voluntarily terminated the Contract with One Construction on April 5, 2016. The School Board argued that no basis in law existed for the second lowest bidder to be awarded a contract once a public owner has awarded, executed, and subsequently terminated a contract with the first low bidder. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. The School Board sought supervisory writ review. This Court denied the writ.[3]

         On May 31, 2016, Gootee filed a motion for leave to file its Third Supplemental and Amended Petition ("Amended Petition III"), which was granted. In the Amended Petition III, the School Board alleged that the judgments granting the permanent injunction and denying One Construction's exceptions had been made executory.[4] The Amended Petition III also prayed for judgment adjudicating Gootee as the lowest responsive bidder.

         Gootee filed a Fourth Amended Petition for Mandamus ("Amended Petition IV") on March 16, 2017. The Amended Petition IV "clarified" that Gootee sought a summary mandamus action to compel the School Board to award Gootee the Contract as the lowest responsive bidder.[5] In response to the Amended Petition IV, the School Board's opposition raised an exception of unauthorized use of summary proceeding.

         The parties agreed to submit Gootee's mandamus action and the School Board's exception to summary proceedings to the district court on the briefs. On June 23, 2017, the district court denied the School Board's exception to unauthorized use of summary proceeding; granted Gootee's Amended Petition ...


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