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Sonnier v. Gordon

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 22, 2019

DONALD E. SONNIER, JR. Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
KENNETH A. GORDON, JR. AND SUSAN FRANKS GORDON Defendant-Appellee-Appellant

          Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 145478 Honorable Robert Lane Pittard, Judge

          STROUD, CARMOUCHE & BUCKLE, PLLC By: Nichole M. Buckle Counsel for Appellant, Susan Franks Gordon

          KITCHENS LAW FIRM, APLC By: Richard R. Ray Counsel for Appellee, Donald E. Sonnier, Jr.

          KENNETH A. GORDON, JR. Appellee, In Proper Person

          Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, C.J.

         The defendant, Susan Gordon, appeals a judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Donald Sonnier, Jr., in the amount of $200, 000, plus interest, attorney fees and costs. The trial court found that Susan Gordon and Kenneth Gordon were liable for repayment of the funds which they received in consideration for executing the 2011 promissory note. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Kenneth Gordon, Jr., and Susan Gordon were married in 1990. During the marriage, they formed and acted as managing members of Diamond Realty Group, LLC ("Diamond Group"), which was engaged in the purchase and sale of real estate in northwest Louisiana. Apparently, the Gordons stopped living together in 2009, but remained married. In May 2010, Diamond Group signed an agreement granting to a separate company an exclusive license to use the Diamond Realty trade name. Kenneth and Susan Gordon ceased selling real property in Louisiana, but Diamond Group continued to exist as an entity with the primary asset consisting of the right to receive the license fee for the trade name. Kenneth Gordon later assigned his financial interest in Diamond Group to Susan Gordon.

         In the fall of 2010, Kenneth Gordon and his friend, Donald Sonnier, Jr., decided to go into business together to buy and sell real estate in Texas. They agreed that Sonnier would provide the cash to get the business started and Gordon would manage the daily operations. In October 2010, checking account # 19690 was opened at American National Bank in the name of Diamond Realty Group, LLC. The mailing address of the account was the home address of Susan Gordon. From November 2010 through March 2011, Sonnier deposited $216, 500 into account # 19690. During that time period, Kenneth and Susan Gordon were still married and were the managing members of Diamond Group.

         On April 19, 2011, Kenneth Gordon and Susan Gordon signed a promissory note in favor of Donald Sonnier in the amount of $200, 000, plus 3.5% interest from the date of execution. The promissory note provided for an award of attorney fees if legal action was required to collect the amount due on the note. At the time they signed the promissory note, the Gordons were married and in a community property regime. In August 2011, Kenneth Gordon was indicted for one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and he was convicted of that crime in 2012. United States v. Gordon, USDC (W.D. La.) No. 5:11-CR-219 (2013). In March 2013, Gordon was remanded to federal prison and the real estate business venture with Sonnier failed a short time later.

         In October 2014, the plaintiff, Sonnier, filed suit to collect the amount due under the promissory note signed by the defendants, Kenneth and Susan Gordon. In March 2015, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $200, 000. On appeal, this court reversed the summary judgment, finding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether consideration had been given to defendants in exchange for their execution of the note. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. Sonnier v. Gordon, 50, 513 (La.App. 2 Cir. 4/13/16), 194 So.3d 47.

         At trial in August 2018, Sharon Buzzanca testified that she was a certified public accountant who had worked with plaintiff during the years 2010 and 2011. Buzzanca stated that she was aware at the time that the Gordons were owners of Diamond Group and that she knew the employer ID # of their company because she had completed a tax form for them to file with the IRS. Buzzanca testified that she was aware Sonnier had agreed to invest funds in the business venture with the Gordons and that he had deposited $216, 500 into the 19690 account.

         Subsequently, the trial court issued reasons for judgment finding that the evidence showed that plaintiff had paid consideration to both defendants in exchange for their execution of the promissory note and that the amount of the consideration exceeded the $200, 000 face value of the note. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $200, 000, plus interest from April 2011, ...


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