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New Era Development Corp. v. Robert

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 27, 2018

NEW ERA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
v.
SONIYA DUMAS ROBERT IN HER CAPACITY AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THESUCCESSION OF JOSEPH FARLEY DUMAS, SR.

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 668-201, DIVISION "N" HONORABLE STEPHEN D. ENRIGHT, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, NEW ERA DEVELOPEMENT CORPORATION Christopher J. Davidson John A. E. Davidson

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, SONIYA DUMAS ROBERT Michelle E. Scott-Bennett

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Marc E. Johnson, and Robert A. Chaisson

          SUSAN M. CHEHARDY, CHIEF JUDGE.

         On appeal, Soniya Dumas Robert, individually and in her capacity as the administratrix of the Succession of Joseph Farley Dumas, Sr., challenges the trial court's ruling in favor of New Era Development Corporation and Tuan and Tina Dinh, dismissing her claims of fraud and damages. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         This is the third appeal in this case, which has a long procedural history.[1] The undisputed facts are that Joseph Farley Dumas, Sr. died intestate on October 27, 2007, leaving two children: Joseph Farley Dumas, Jr. ("Junior Dumas") and Soniya Dumas Robert ("Ms. Robert"). At the time of his death, Mr. Dumas, Sr. owned a piece of immovable property in Jefferson Parish.[2]

         On May 16, 2008, prior to the opening of his father's succession and while fraudulently[3] representing himself to be Joseph Dumas, Sr., Junior Dumas executed a cash sale of this property to Tina and Tuan Dinh ("the Dinhs")[4] at the office of Southern Title, Inc.[5] Shortly thereafter, the Dinhs learned that Junior Dumas had fraudulently represented himself to be Joseph Dumas, Sr. and alerted Southern Title.

         On July 18, 2008, at the offices of Southern Title, [6] Tina and Tuan Dinh executed a Quitclaim Deed in favor of New Era Development Corporation ("New Era") in exchange for $38, 881.50. On July 23, 2008, Ms. Robert opened her father's succession proceedings and was appointed administratrix.

         On January 3, 2009, New Era filed a petition for partition by licitation seeking a judicial sale of the Martin Street property, claiming that it had a one-half interest in that property. In response, Ms. Robert, in her capacity as administratrix of the succession, filed exceptions and a general answer to the allegations as well as a reconventional and third party demand against New Era, Southern Title, Joseph Farley Dumas, Jr., and Tina and Tuan Dinh. In its reconventional and third party demand, the succession sought to have both the sale of the property from Junior Dumas to the Dinhs and the Quitclaim Deed executed by the Dinhs to New Era declared absolute nullities and ownership of the property returned to the succession. Further, the succession administratrix sought attorney fees and damages based on the third-party defendants' acts of bad faith and negligence.

         In September of 2011, the succession moved for summary judgment, on the basis that both the May 16, 2008 sale of property and the July 18, 2008 Quitclaim Deed were absolute nullities. After a hearing, the trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the succession, and dismissed New Era's petition for partition with prejudice. When New Era appealed that judgment, this Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment that both 2008 transactions of the Martin Drive property were absolute nullities. See New Era Dev. Corp. v. Robert, 12-304 (La.App. 5 Cir. 11/13/12), 105 So.3d 889. That judgment is now final.

         Thereafter, on June 3, 2013, Ms. Robert moved to set the succession's reconventional and third-party demands for trial. In response, New Era filed a first supplemental and amended petition naming Junior Dumas as a defendant seeking damages and "return of sums not due." On March 21, 2014, Ms. Robert filed her "first supplemental and amended answer, reconventional demand, and third party demand" seeking damages for the actions of New Era and Southern Title through their agent, David J. Bourgeois, alleging that they intentionally conspired to fraudulently convert one-half of the succession's interest in the Martin Drive property. On August 7, 2014, Ms. Robert dismissed her claims against Southern Title. Shortly thereafter, Southern Title dismissed its pending appeal of a judgment in favor of Ms. Robert and the succession.[7]

         On November 25, 2014, Ms. Robert again moved to set the succession's remaining claims against New Era, the Dinhs, and Junior Dumas for trial. In response, New Era filed an exception of no right of action on the basis that Ms. Robert did not have standing as a succession representative to assert a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted New Era's exception and allowed Ms. Robert time within which to amend her petition. Meanwhile, on December 12, 2014, Ms. Robert moved for and was granted a preliminary default against Junior Dumas.[8]

         On March 24, 2015, Ms. Robert, in her individual capacity, filed a "second supplemental and amended answer, reconventional demand, and third party demand" naming New Era as defendant. In her demand, Ms. Robert sought damages for the emotional distress she suffered from New Era's conspiracy to convert succession property, as well as attorney fees and costs.

         On June 20, 2017, New Era obtained a preliminary default judgment against defendant, Junior Dumas. The default judgment, in the sum of $37, 572.00, ...


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