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Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College v. 2226 Canal Street, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 19, 2018

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2226 CANAL STREET, L.L.C. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
201 SOUTH MIRO STREET, L.L.C. ET AL BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2300 CANAL STREET, L.L.C. ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
125 GALVEZ STREET, L.L.C.. ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2330 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANCAL COLLEGE
v.
PFD TWO, L.L.C. (FORMERLY KNOWN AS NORA TWO, L.L.C.) ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
PFD THREE, L.L.C. (FORMERLY KNOWN AS NORA THREE L.L.C.), ET AL BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2404 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C. ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, ET AL.
v.
2338 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
PFD ONE, L.L.C.. (FORMERLY KNOWN AS NORA ONE, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
PFD THREE, L.L.C. (FORMERLY KNOWN AS NORA THREE, L.L.C.) ET AL., BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2300 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
220 S. JOHNSON STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2120 CANAL STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2105 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2115 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2113 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
2107-09 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE
v.
PDF THREE, L.LC. (FORMERLY KNOWN AS NORA THREE, L.L.C.), ET AL., BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL COLLEGE v., 2123 PALMYRA STREET, L.L.C., ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2010-07575 C\W 2010-07576, 2010-07577, 2010-07982, 210-07983, 2010-07985, 2010-07986, 2010-08005, 2010-08052, 2010-08075, 2010-08313, 2010-08320, 2010-10484, 2010-10486, 2010-10945, 2010-10946, 2010-10947, 2010-10986, 2010-10987, 2010-11456, DIVISION "M-13" Honorable Paulette R. Irons, Judge

          Leopold Z. Sher, James M. Garner, Thomas J. Madigan, II Ryan Adams Jacob A. Airey SHER GARNER CAHILL RICHTER KLEIN & HILBERT, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES, 2226 CANAL STREET, L.L.C., ET AL.

          Kimberly K. Smith Assistant City Attornrey Churita H. Hansell Deputy City Attorney Sunni J. LeBeouf City Attorney COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, NORMAN FOSTER, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, CITY OF NEW ORLEANS

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Dale N. Atkins

          Terri F. Love, Judge.

         This appeal arises from the expropriation of properties in New Orleans for the construction of new medical facilities following Hurricane Katrina. The parties involved reached a confidential settlement agreement. Following the settlement, the property owners moved to release the monies remaining in the registry of the court. The City of New Orleans opposed the release, contending that the monies represented property taxes due and owing. The property owners contended that the settlement agreement allotted them the monies. The trial court found that the settlement agreement did not reserve property taxes, and granted the release of the monies.

         The City of New Orleans appealed alleging that the trial court committed manifest error and abused its discretion by releasing the monies in the registry of the court. We find that the settlement agreement entitled the property owners to the monies remaining in the registry of the court, and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Louisiana State University and the Veterans Administration (collectively "LSU") expropriated properties in New Orleans for the construction of new medical facilities. During the expropriation process and litigation, LSU deposited funds representing the value of the properties into the registry of the court. The property defendants[1] withdrew the funds from the registry except for the amount of alleged property taxes due. The amount of alleged property taxes remained in the registry of the court pending resolution of the amount of taxes owed.

         Following negotiations, the parties entered in a confidential settlement agreement ("Settlement"), which was signed by all parties to the litigation. The Settlement provided that the defendants could withdraw the funds remaining in the registry of the court. These funds were previously earmarked for property taxes. The property defendants[2] filed Motions to Enforce Settlement Agreement and to Withdraw Remaining Funds from the Registry. The City of New Orleans opposed the motion to withdraw the funds, asserting that it never waived the right to collect property taxes. The trial court found that the City could have specifically reserved the right to the funds remaining in the registry or property taxes in the Settlement, but did not. The trial court granted the Motions to Enforce Settlement Agreement and to Withdraw Remaining Funds from the Registry. The City's suspensive appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "It is well settled that a court of appeal may not set aside a trial court's or a jury's finding of fact in the absence of 'manifest error' or unless it is 'clearly wrong.'" Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840, 844 (La. 1989). "[W]here there is conflict in the testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed upon review, even though the appellate court may feel that its own evaluations and inferences are as reasonable." Id. "[I]f the trial court or jury findings are reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, the court of appeal may not reverse even" if "it would have weighed the evidence differently." Id. "Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong." Id. "In applying the manifestly erroneous-clearly wrong standard to the findings below, appellate courts must constantly have in mind that their initial review function is not to decide factual issues de novo." Id.

         "Legal issues are reviewed with the de novo standard of review." Gordon v. Gordon, 16-0008, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/8/16), 195 So.3d 687, 689.

         "A district court's 'interpretation of an alleged compromise agreement is subject to manifest error/clearly wrong review.'" Feingerts v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 12-1598, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/26/13), 117 So.3d 1294, 1297, quoting Hancock Bank of Louisiana ...


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