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Vekic v. Popich

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

November 14, 2018

NIKOLA P. VEKIC
v.
DRAGUTIN POPICH, MARY A. POPICH AND HELEN POPICH HARRIS

          APPEAL FROM ST. BERNARD 34TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT NO. 2013-00508, DIVISION "E" Honorable Jacques A. Sanborn, Judge

          Kevin C. O'Bryon Marta-Ann Schnabel Sherry Watters O'BRYON & SCHNABEL, PLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE

          Andy Dupre Thomas M. Flanagan FLANAGAN PARTNERS LLP 201 St. Charles Avenue, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods

          REGINA BARTHOLOMEW-WOODS JUDGE.

         In this civil appeal, Appellee endeavors to recover interest from the original judgment, notwithstanding the fact that the trial court's original judgment was silent as to interest. On appeal from this Court, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed this Court's prior decision, and reinstated the trial court's original judgment. Thereafter, the trial court rendered a subsequent judgment awarding Appellee the money that Appellants had placed into the registry of the court, which included monies in excess of the principal amount awarded in the original judgment.[1] For the reasons that follow, we find that the trial court erred; accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In this appeal, the underlying facts are not at issue. However, the procedural history is of importance. Appellee, Nikola Vekic ("Mr. Vekic" or "Appellee"), entered into a contract to sublease oyster leases owned by Appellants, Dragutin Popich, Mary A. Popich, and Helen Popich Harris ("Popich family" or "Appellants"). After the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, the Popich family received settlement proceeds from British Petroleum. Mr. Vekic filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that he was entitled to the settlement proceeds. Vekic v. Popich, 2016-0508, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/29/17), 215 So.3d 483, 486, writ granted, 2017-0698 (La. 6/29/17), 222 So.3d 47, and rev'd, 2017-0698 (La. 10/18/17), 236 So.3d 526. The trial court ruled in favor of Mr. Vekic; however, the judgment was silent as to legal interest.

         The Popich family appealed and posted a suspensive bond, which included the judgment amount, as well as legal interest. On appeal, Mr. Vekic sought a modification of the trial court's judgment to include legal interest. This Court reversed the trial court and ruled in favor of the Popich family. Thus, this Court pretermitted discussion of assignments of error that addressed attorney's fees and legal interest. Mr. Vekic took a writ of certiorari to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which granted the writ, reversed this Court, and reinstated the trial court's judgment. The Louisiana Supreme Court's judgment, however, was silent as to legal interest.

         Thereafter, the Popich family moved the trial court to disburse the money in the court's registry to Mr. Vekic to satisfy the amount of the final judgment, excluding interest. Mr. Vekic argued that he was entitled to all of the money that the Popich family had deposited into the registry, including the interest. Pursuant to a consent judgment, Mr. Vekic received the amount awarded to him in the original judgment of the trial court. Subsequently, the trial court conducted a hearing to determine whether Mr. Vekic was entitled to the interest monies held in the court's registry. After the hearing, the trial court ruled that Mr. Vekic was entitled to the remaining money in the court's registry reasoning that the Popich family intended for Mr. Vekic to receive this money. It is from this ruling that the Popich family appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         Collectively, the Appellants' assignments of error address whether the trial court erred in adding legal interest to a final non-tort judgment after it had become final.

         Standard of Review

         This appeal presents a question of law. Accordingly, this Court will conduct a de novo review. Land v. Vidrine, ...


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