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Delcambre v. Mancuso

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

April 10, 2019



          Adam P. Johnson, The Johnson Firm, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants: Betty Sue Delcambre, Joseph Delcambre

          Shayna L. Sonnier, Hunter, Hunter & Sonnier LLC, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants: Betty Sue Delcambre, Joseph Delcambre

          Robert C. McCorquodale, In-House Counsel, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office Counsel for Defendants/Appellees: Tony Mancuso, Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish, Leslie Blanchard, John Melton

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Van H. Kyzar, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.


         This matter involves Betty Sue Delcambre's and Joseph Delcambre's ("the Delcambres") claims for damages against Tony Mancuso, in his official capacity as Calcasieu Parish Sheriff, Leslie Blanchard, and John Melton, both individually, and in their official capacities as deputies with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office ("CPSO"), (collectively referred to as "Defendants"). The Delcambres appeal the trial court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Defendants, which dismissed the Delcambres' claims associated with an intentional tort, including their claims of abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On appeal, we affirm in part and reverse in part.


         In 2011, Eric Sheeley ("Mr. Sheeley"), Mrs. Delcambre's previous employer at Surfaces Design Gallery, discovered information leading him to believe that Mrs. Delcambre misappropriated funds from his business. He thereafter instituted a civil suit. In 2015, Mr. Sheeley learned of additional information regarding the theft and filed a criminal complaint alleging that Mrs. Delcambre misappropriated the funds. The complaint was assigned to John Melton ("Det. Melton") who was a detective in the property and financial crimes division. After completing his investigation, Det. Melton submitted the case to the District Attorney's office. The District Attorney's office instructed Det. Melton to obtain a warrant. Det. Melton presented an Affidavit for Arrest Warrant and an Arrest Warrant to Judge Canaday, which were signed on April 20, 2016.

         On April 22, 2016, at approximately 8:29 a.m., Det. Melton emailed the arrest warrant to Leslie Blanchard ("Lt. Blanchard"), who at the time was a lieutenant supervising detectives in the violent crimes division. Lt. Blanchard then forwarded the arrest warrant to Detective Travis Lavergne ("Det. Lavergne") at 8:46 a.m. Det. Lavergne allegedly spotted Mrs. Delcambre around 8:50 a.m., and conducted a plate inquiry at 8:51 a.m. At 8:55 a.m., Deputy Aaron Shelton stopped Mrs. Delcambre's vehicle.[1] At 9:10 a.m. Mrs. Delcambre was arrested.

         Mrs. Delcambre was booked in the Calcasieu Parish Jail that morning. A CPSO Press Release form was filled out by Det. Melton and provided to his supervisor, Lieutenant Rick Burrell ("Lt. Burrell"), and Kim Myers, at 10:59 a.m. The press release was provided to the media and Mrs. Delcambre's arrest and picture were aired on the local news. Mrs. Delcambre's charges were rejected in August 2016, by the District Attorney's office after it was determined that the charges had prescribed.

         On April 24, 2017, the Delcambres filed suit against Defendants alleging that Mrs. Delcambre's arrest was part of a plan concocted by Lt. Blanchard to seek revenge on Mrs. Delcambre for denying his son access to the pre-school at St. Luke-Simpson UMC Childcare Center, where Mrs. Delcambre was the Executive Director in 2015. In addition to allegations of negligence, the Delcambres alleged that Lt. Blanchard and Det. Melton conspired to coordinate Mrs. Delcambre's arrest and the issuance of the press release in order to intentionally inflict emotional distress upon Mrs. Delcambre. Further, their petition alleges that Lt. Blanchard and Det. Melton "conspired with one another for purposes of abusing the rights and abusing [the] process against" Mrs. Delcambre "to exact retribution" and to "publicly humiliate" her.

         On October 17, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, requesting that the Delcambres' claims with respect to intentional torts be dismissed and stricken from the petition. In support of their motion, Defendants attached affidavits from Mr. Sheeley, Lt. Burrell, Lt. Blanchard, and Det. Melton. Defendants also submitted the Offense Report Checklist; CPSO Offense Report Receipt; an April 13, 2016 DA Review accepting the case and instructing that a warrant be obtained; the Affidavit for Arrest Warrant; Arrest Warrant; Bail Order; CPSO Press Release Form; a second DA Review dated August 11, 2016, identifying the charges as prescribed; and the Delcambres' discovery responses admitting that they have no documents evidencing that Defendants had actual, prior knowledge that the charges had prescribed.

         In opposition, Plaintiffs submitted several discovery responses from Defendants, the email chain of the Arrest Warrant, a letter from the Blanchards to St. Luke-Simpson United Methodist Church asserting that they would be pursuing a claim for personal injuries for the events surrounding their son's dismissal from daycare, a response letter from the church stating it knows of no damages or embezzlement suffered by anyone, and the Detail Call for Service Report from the CPSO.

         In his affidavit, Mr. Sheeley confirmed that Lt. Blanchard played no role in his decision to file charges against Mrs. Delcambre and that it was Bill Hamber ("Mr. Hamber") who encouraged him to file charges. Although Lt. Blanchard does admit that Mr. Hamber told him to discuss potential charges with Mr. Sheeley, Mr. Sheeley does not recall such a ...

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