APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 728-857, DIVISION
"N" HONORABLE STEPHEN D. ENRIGHT, JR., JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, CARLOS RUSSELL AND DESHANNON
RUSSELL Ron A. Austin Catherine H. Hilton Lillian A. Williams
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, MICHAEL G. JONES, RILEY &
CARROLL PROPERTIES, INC. AND ERNEST RILEY Mark E. Young
Meredith R. Durham
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE
COMPANY, INC. Sean P. Mount Anne E. Medo Bryce M. Addison
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Marc E.
Johnson, and Stephen J. Windhorst
FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER JUDGE.
seek review of a judgment granting a motion to set aside a
default judgment. For the following reasons, we find that the
judgment appealed is not a final, appealable judgment, and
this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of the
appeal. Accordingly, for the reasons stated herein, we
dismiss the appeal.
litigation arises out of a July 21, 2012 motor vehicle
accident. Plaintiffs, Carlos and DeShannon Russell, filed
suit in 2013 against the defendant-driver, Michael Jones,
Riley & Carroll Properties, defendant-driver's
employer, and Ernest Riley, the owner of R & C, as well
as R & C's alleged liability insurer, State National
Insurance Company (SNIC). SNIC made payments initially but
subsequently denied coverage and defense filed no responsive
pleadings on behalf of Mr. Jones, Mr. Riley, or R & C. At
some point in time, counsel for SNIC reported to
plaintiffs' counsel that "SNIC had discovered that,
at the time of the accident in question, Scottsdale Insurance
Company carried general liability insurance coverage for
Jones, Riley, and R & C." See Carlos Russell and
DeShannon Russell v. Michael G. Jones, et al., 17-585
(La.App. 5 Cir. 3/12/18), 239 So.3d 1083, 1085. Based on this
information, plaintiffs amended their petition to include
Scottsdale Insurance Company as a named defendant.
11, 2015, plaintiffs presented evidence and obtained a
default judgment against defendants, Mr. Jones, Mr. Riley,
and R & C, in the amount of $154, 255.72. On May 5, 2016,
SNIC filed a motion to set aside the default judgment,
contending that the judgment was an absolute nullity because
SNIC- who plaintiffs had identified as a responsible insurer,
a named defendant, and an adverse party in the litigation-was
never served with notice of the hearing on the motion to
confirm the default judgment or of the default judgment as it
purports is required under La. C.C.P. art.
December 5, 2017, the trial judge, citing a jurisprudentially
created "interest of justice" exception set forth
in Bridges v. Lyles, 10-1183 (La.App. 3 Cir.
3/9/11), 2011 La. App. Unpub. LEXIS 125, granted SNIC's
motion to vacate the default judgment and vacated the June
11, 2015 default judgment. The record reflects that on
January 25, 2018, more than thirty days from the date of the
December 5, 2017 judgment, plaintiffs filed a motion for
appeal seeking review of the court's December 5, 2017
Court cannot determine the merits of an appeal unless our
jurisdiction is properly invoked by a valid, final judgment.
See Input/Output Marine Sys. v. Wilson Greatbatch,
Techs., Inc., 10-477 (La.App. 5 Cir. 10/29/10), 52 So.3d
909, 915. A "final judgment" is appealable in all
causes in which appeals are given by law, whether rendered
after hearing, by default, or by reformation. La. C.C.P. art.
2083(A); Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Edwards,
17-214 (La.App. 5 Cir. 11/15/17), 232 So.3d 688, 696. A final
judgment is a judgment that "determines the merits in
whole or in part," and an interlocutory judgment is one
that "does not determine the merits but only preliminary
matters in the course of the action." La. C.C.P. art.
1841; Davis v. Wong, 05-853, p. 3 (La.App. 5 Cir.
3/28/06), 927 So.2d 581, 583.
our review of the record in this matter, we find that the
judgment appealed is not a final, appealable judgment. We
find that a judgment granting a motion to vacate a default
judgment-which maintains the litigation at the trial court
level and does not determine in whole or in part the merits
of the underlying action-is not a final, appealable judgment.
Compare Bank of N.Y. v. Holden, 15-466 (La.App. 5
Cir. 12/23/15), 182 So.3d 1206, 1208 (wherein this Court
found that a judgment vacating a dismissal of an action as
abandoned under La. C.C.P. art. 561, which maintains the
action, is an interlocutory judgment). Therefore, we find we
do not have jurisdiction to consider the merits of this
appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal and, consequently,
further deny as moot the pending "Motion to Reinstate
Oral Argument" and "Motion to Strike Appellee
Brief" filed in connection with this appeal.
DISMISSED; MOTION TO STRIKE DENIED AS MOOT; MOTION TO