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Laird v. Laird

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 10, 2019

MARY BETH LAIRD, NEE WALLEY Appellee
v.
JOHN CARLTON LAIRD Appellant

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 060738, Honorable Carl Van Sharp, Judge

          LOOMIS & DEMENT, Albert Edward Loomis, ROUNTREE LAW FIRM James A. Rountree, Counsel for Appellee

          DONALD L. KNEIPP, Counsel for Appellant

          Before PITMAN, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          COX, J.

         The appeal arises out of the Fourth Judicial District, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. John C. Laird ("Jack") appeals the trial court's award of damages to Mary Beth Laird ("Beth"). For the following reasons, we affirm in part and amend in part.

         FACTS

         The factual background leading to this community property dispute between Jack and Beth is detailed in Laird v. Laird, 46, 459 (La.App. 2 Cir. 6/22/11), 69 So.3d 1173 (Laird I). This suit began with Beth's petition for partition of yet undivided community property. The issues in Laird I were regarding Jack's interest in Chapel Hill, LLC. The Chapel Hill interest is not disputed in the instant appeal because it was settled out of court and voluntarily dismissed from the suit. The only property in dispute in this appeal is the contingency fee earned by Dollar Laird, LLP. The contingency fee of $168, 117.19 was owed to John C. Laird, A Professional Law Corporation from the litigation in Kemp v. Kansas City Southern Railway. In the community property settlement, signed by the parties on September 29, 2006 and October 11, 2006, Jack was apportioned all interest in Dollar Laird, LLP and John C. Laird, APLC. On June 14, 2007, Beth filed her amended and supplemental ancillary petition for partition of yet undivided community property, alleging the Kemp fee was omitted as a community asset.

         The Kemp case was litigated in November 2006 and the fee amounts between the attorneys were resolved after the community property settlement. The contingency fee check was not deposited until 2007. In deposition testimony in 2006, Jack did not mention the Kemp contingency fee when asked about his contingency fee cases. Later, in a 2007 deposition, Jack did disclose the Kemp contingency fee. He testified that he did not mention it in 2006 because he was asked if he personally had any contingency fee cases, which he did not. He stated that Dollar Laird, LLC had contingency cases, but he personally worked for an hourly fee. During the pretrial phase, Beth joined several defendants and amended and supplemented her pleadings four times. After the dismissals, some voluntary, the only remaining issue at the time of the trial was the Kemp contingency fee.

         On April 10, 2018, the trial court rendered judgment. The trial court found that the monies attributable to Jack from the Kemp litigation to be a community asset. The trial court treated the suit as a damages suit and awarded Beth "$56, 039.06, plus legal interest thereon from June 7, 2007, until paid and all costs of these proceedings." The trial court did not determine Jack's actions constituted fraud and denied Beth's claim for reasonable attorney fees. Jack now appeals the trial court's judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         Jack argues the trial court erred in awarding Beth $56, 039.06 in connection with the Kemp fee; not deducting the overhead percentage from the fee and the income taxes paid on it; finding that Jack owes Beth interest from the date of demand; taxing Jack with the costs of litigation; and, dismissing Jack's claim for reimbursement of overpaid child support.

         Damages Award

         Jack contends that Beth filed a claim asserting community assets were omitted, but that those assets are not stand-alone community assets because they are owned by the community entities. He claims the Kemp fee was paid to and owned by the law firms, and it is not an asset of the community in and of itself. He argues the Kemp fee is an award owned by a community property entity, of which he was given full ownership in the ...


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