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White v. Cox Operating, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

March 20, 2019

WADE WHITE
v.
COX OPERATING, LLC

          APPEAL FROM ST. BERNARD 34TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT NO. 14-1484, DIVISION "D" Honorable Kirk A. Vaughn, Judge

          Stephen S. Kreller Katie M. Cusimano THE KRELLER LAW FIRM and William L. Roberts Jonathan W. Dettmann Evelyn Levine FAEBRE BAKER DANIELS LLP COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Robert C. Clotworthy Daniel J. Dysart Christopher M. Hannan Roy C. Cheatwood BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Tiffany G. Chase

          Roland L. Belsome, Judge.

         In this damages suit, the Plaintiff, Wade White, appeals the trial court's granting of summary judgment in favor of the Defendant, Cox Operating, LLC, on both the principal and reconventional demands. The trial court found that Cox's tortious infringement onto Mr. White's oyster lease was covered by a compromise agreement; therefore, it dismissed Mr. White's claims on the principal demand and awarded Cox indemnity and defense costs on its reconventional demand. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The instant litigation was the subject of a previous appeal to this Court, wherein we summarized the factual and procedural background as follows:

Wade White, a lifetime oysterman, is the owner of multiple oyster leases. Cox Operating, LLC ("Cox") entered into a "Receipt and Release" for $100, 000 with Mr. White in 2000, when Cox began drilling wells near some of his oyster leases.[1] Subsequently, Cox sought to drill more wells near Mr. White's leases. In 2012, Cox negotiated another drilling release [Letter Agreement] with Mr. White for $175, 000.[2]
Around April 1, 2012, Mr. White discovered Cox's pilings driven into his oyster leases and water traffic that differed from the agreed upon routes on ingress/egress. Mr. White then contacted Cox, who allegedly admitted the error and promised payment for damages. Cox removed the pilings and then continued following the previous agreed upon ingress/egress routes. Cox later maintained that the executed drilling releases covered any damages caused by the pilings and extra water traffic.
Mr. White then filed a Petition for Damages against Cox due to the pilings. Cox filed a reconventional demand for breach of contract of settlement/compromise, declaratory judgment, and attorney's fees/costs. Cox also filed peremptory exceptions of res judicata and no right of action and sought expedited consideration from the trial court. The trial court heard oral argument, but did not accept live testimony or evidence. After taking the matter under advisement, the trial court granted Cox's exception of res judicata and denied the exception of no right of action.

White v. Cox Operating, LLC, 16-0901, pp. 1-2 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/5/17), 229 So.3d 534, 536.

         In the prior appeal, this Court reversed the trial court's judgment granting the exception of res judicata and remanded the matter for an evidentiary hearing. On remand, Cox filed two motions for summary judgment, one on Mr. White's principal claims, and another on its reconventional demand. After a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Cox, dismissing Mr. White's lawsuit with prejudice and awarding Cox indemnity and defense on its breach of contract claim. The trial court deferred judgment on quantum and attorney's fees. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD ...


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