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Garrison v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 22, 2019

ROCHUNDRA GARRISON, ET AL. Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, ET AL. Defendants-Appellees

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Morehouse, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2014-486 Honorable Wilson Rambo, Judge.

          ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO, Counsel for Appellant, Sam Winston, Jr.

          K. DOUGLAS WHEELER, Counsel for Appellee, State Farm Fire and Casualty.

          MARCY L. ALLEN, Counsel for Appellee, Duane T. Lucky, Jr.

          Before MOORE, COX, and BLEICH (Ad Hoc), JJ.

          BLEICH, J. (AD HOC)

         Plaintiff, Sam Winston, Jr., [1] has appealed from the trial court's judgment in favor of Defendants, Duane Lucky, Jr., and his notary bond surety, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, dismissing with prejudice all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants.[2] For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This is the second time that this case has been before this Court. Some of the underlying facts and initial procedural history are taken from Garrison v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 51, 245 (La.App. 2 Cir. 04/05/17), 217 So.3d 586, 587-88:

Sam Winston, Jr. ("Winston"), was the owner of a 2004 Buick LeSabre. Winston lived with his adult daughter, Rochundra Garrison [("Garrison")], and her children at a residence in Bastrop. Winston allowed Garrison to drive the vehicle, but he remained the title owner. The title documents were kept in the vehicle. The car developed a hole in the radiator and overheated when operated. Garrison contacted her friend, Clarence Hollins [("Hollins")], a mechanic at Ray's Auto World ("Ray's Auto"), a used car lot in Bastrop, and he agreed to repair the car. Ray Waller [("Waller")] was the owner of Ray's Auto. The vehicle was then towed to the Ray's Auto lot, where it remained for several weeks. When Garrison returned to ask about the repairs, Hollins told her that the car had been sold by Waller.
The chain of title shows a sale of the 2004 Buick on October 15, 2013, from Winston to Waller, with Winston's signature witnessed by Duane Lucky, Jr. ("Lucky"), as notary. Then, on November 23, 2013, Waller sold the car to Mary Palmer, with Lucky again witnessing the signatures as notary. Winston denied signing the bill of sale or title. The plaintiffs, Winston and Garrison, filed a lawsuit against Waller for conversion and obtained a judgment against him. The plaintiffs then filed a petition against Lucky and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm"), which had issued a notary bond for Lucky, alleging that he had facilitated the conversion by notarizing the sale documents without confirming the identity of the person purporting to sign as Winston. The plaintiffs obtained an affidavit from Waller, who stated that he had taken the sale documents for the 2004 Buick to Lucky's office so that he "would notarize" the documents with his signature. Waller testified that he did not sign Lucky's name as notary.
In his deposition, Lucky denied signing the documents as notary and asserted that his name was also forged. Lucky testified that after receiving a letter from plaintiffs' attorney regarding the forged signatures, he confronted Waller, who admitted that he had forged Lucky's name to the title and bill of sale. Lucky stated that he had done prior notary work for Waller and other used car dealers. Lucky acknowledged that he routinely notarized the signature of the dealer, as the vehicle seller, without requiring the seller to appear and sign before him.

         Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment based on Lucky's deposition testimony that he had not signed the documents. In opposition, Plaintiffs submitted the Waller affidavit. Thereafter, Lucky's attorney obtained a second affidavit from Waller in which he stated that he signed Lucky's name on the bill of sale and title transferring ownership of Winston's vehicle. A hearing was held and the trial court, inter alia, granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment which was reversed by this Court in Garrison, supra.

         Following remand, trial was held on February 12, 2018, on the exception of prescription, the main demand against Defendants, and a reconventional demand for defamation filed by Lucky. The trial court, finding that Winston's claim against Defendants had not prescribed, denied the exception of prescription. The trial court then found that Winston failed to prove that Lucky signed the disputed documents and rendered judgment in Defendants' favor, dismissing with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against them. The trial court likewise found that Lucky did not establish his claim against Winston and rendered judgment in favor ...


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