Appealed from the Second Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Claiborne, Louisiana Trial Court No. 40523
Honorable Jenifer Ward Clason, Judge
SHELTON, WILLIAMS, BENSON & PAINE, LLC By: Jody T. Benson
Alexandra E. Vozzella Counsel for Appellants
COLVIN, SMITH & McKAY By: Daniel N. Bays, Jr. Counsel for
WILLIAMS, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.
defendants, Musa Slaughterhouse, LLC, Musa Simreen and
Michael Habash, appeal a district court judgment denying
their petition to nullify a default judgment that was
rendered in favor of the plaintiff, J & J Livestock, LLC.
For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in
dispute arose as a result of an open account between the
plaintiff, J & J Livestock, LLC ("J & J"),
and the defendant, Musa Slaughterhouse, LLC ("Musa
Slaughterhouse"). The defendant, Musa Simreen, is the
owner of Musa Slaughterhouse; the defendant, Michael Habash
("Habash"), testified that he is the manager of the
slaughterhouse. Musa Slaughterhouse is domiciled in Tampa,
Florida; Musa Simreen is a resident of New York; Habash is a
citizen of Canada. The plaintiff, J & J, is domiciled in
Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.
December 2014, J & J and Musa Slaughterhouse entered into
an agreement to sell/buy livestock. As a result of business
transactions between the entities, an open account was
created. Generally, the parties' arrangement was as
follows: Habash and James Garcia (the owner of J & J)
would discuss orders and shipping arrangements via telephone
conversations and/or text messages; once the order and
shipping arrangements were determined, J & J would ship
the orders to Musa Slaughterhouse's headquarters in
Tampa, Florida. Normally, once Musa Slaughterhouse received
the shipment from J & J, Habash would either mail a check
to J & J, or would make a direct wire transfer to J &
J's account. On the occasions when Musa
Slaughterhouse's payment was insufficient to pay for the
entire shipment, J & J would apply the payment to the
outstanding balance on the open account. Between December
2014 and April 2015, 14 truckloads of livestock were
transported from Claiborne Parish to Musa Slaughterhouse.
During that period, the defendants made approximately 22
payments to the plaintiff.
April 28, 2015, Habash's nephew and at least two other
men traveled to Louisiana to pick up the fourteenth shipment
of livestock/fowl.Garcia and Habash discussed the transaction
over the telephone, and according to Garcia, Habash
instructed him to "[j]ust let my nephew pick it all
out." Habash's nephew selected certain livestock and
fowl, and transported the load back to the Musa
Slaughterhouse headquarters in Florida. At some point
thereafter, Musa Slaughterhouse stopped making payments on
the open account.
24, 2015, J & J filed a "Petition on Open
Account," naming Musa Slaughterhouse, Musa Simreen and
Michael Habash as defendants. On June 29, 2015, the
defendants were served with the petition via Louisiana's
long-arm statute. The defendants did not file a response to
the plaintiff's petition.
plaintiff's request, on August 3, 2015, the trial court
entered a preliminary judgment of default against the
defendants. On August 10, 2015, the plaintiff filed into the
record the required affidavits of mailing of service of
process to each of the defendants through the long-arm
statute. The citations and petitions were mailed to each
defendant at Musa Slaughterhouse's address in Tampa,
Florida. The plaintiff attested that the process was sent by
United States certified mail, in envelopes properly addressed
to each defendant, with sufficient postage attached. The
exhibits attached to the affidavits show that three certified
mail notices were delivered to Musa Slaughterhouse's
address on June 29, 2015. The return receipts were signed;
however, the signatures were not legible.
on September 16, 2015, the district court entered a
confirmation of the default judgment, finding that the
defendants were liable, in solido, to the plaintiff
for $76, 306.11, plus legal interest from the date of
judicial demand. The court also awarded to the plaintiff $2,
500 in attorney fees and court costs. J & J made the
judgment executory in Florida, resulting in the seizure of
Musa Slaughterhouse's property.
April 4, 2018, the defendants filed a pleading entitled
"Petition for Nullity and to Stay Execution of Judgment
and Request for Expedited Consideration." The defendants
argued that Louisiana lacked personal jurisdiction over them
because Musa Slaughterhouse is a Florida company; Musa
Simreen is a resident of New York; and Michael Habash is a
resident of Canada. They also argued that service of process
was improper because the "green cards" from the
certified mail were signed by "an unknown person,"
rather than by Musa Simreen, who was Musa
Slaughterhouse's agent for service of process.
According to the defendants, the person who signed the
receipt of service cards for all three defendants was not
authorized to do so.
hearing was conducted on May 10, 2018, during which two
witnesses testified, James Garcia and Michael Habash. Garcia
testified that Habash learned of his livestock company from
someone in Georgia and contacted him about purchasing
livestock for Musa Slaughterhouse. Garcia testified as
I did all my business with Michael Habash.
He would call me on the phone or send me text messages about
what he needed and when he needed them.
And we provided freight for him, big truck loads, the first
four or five loads, and then it'd be cut back to
gooseneck loads, and then the last load, he sent his own
people up here to pick up the load.
Garcia explained that when Habash called to place the first
13 orders, Habash specified "what type animal, what size
animal." He stated that he shipped the livestock to Musa
Slaughterhouse in Tampa, Florida. With regard to the
fourteenth order/shipment from J & J to ...