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Global Construction & Equipment, L.L.C. v. Rathborne Properties, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

May 29, 2019

GLOBAL CONSTRUCTION & EQUIPMENT, L.L.C. AND MICHELLE HEBERT
v.
RATHBORNE PROPERTIES, L.L.C. RATHBORNE PROPERTIES, L.L.C.
v.
GLOBAL SOLUTION ENTERPRISES, L.L.C.

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 753-933, DIVISION "H" HONORABLE GLENN B. ANSARDI, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, GLOBAL CONSTRUCTION & EQUIPMENT, L.L.C. AND MICHELLE HEBERT Patrick H. Patrick, Stephen E. Mattesky

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, RATHBORNE PROPERTIES, L.L.C. Jacob Kansas

          Panel composed of Judges Robert A. Chaisson, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON, JUDGE

         In these two consolidated cases arising out of a disputed commercial property lease agreement and a writ of sequestration, Rathborne Properties, LLC ("Rathborne") appeals a judgment of the trial court holding it liable to Michelle Hebert and her company, Global Solutions Enterprises, LLC ("Global"), in the amount of $25, 680.94. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court, and amend the judgment accordingly.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 6, 2006, Global, a limited liability company owned by Michelle Hebert, entered into a lease for commercial warehouse and office space owned by Rathborne in Harvey, Louisiana.[1] Although Global paid its rent late on intermittent occasions from 2006 to 2015, the parties continued in their lease agreement. Beginning around May, 2015, Global began missing rent payments. In August, 2015, Rathborne made a demand for delinquent payments upon Ms. Hebert and Global by correspondence, which was followed several days later by a notice to vacate the premises. On September 11, 2015, Ms. Hebert notified Rathborne that her businesses would be vacating the premises by October 15, and that all sums owed to Rathborne would be paid before departing the premises. An agent for Rathborne acknowledged receipt of that notice and contacted Ms. Hebert to make arrangements to show the property to prospective tenants and place a "for lease" sign on the property. There were no further communications between Ms. Hebert and Rathborne.

         On September 29, 2015, Rathborne filed a writ of sequestration, which was executed on October 1, 2015, by Jefferson Parish Sheriffs deputies and Rathborne's attorney, who came to the leased premises and proceeded to seize Global's movables. When Ms. Hebert arrived during the course of the seizure, Rathborne's attorney demanded $17, 000.00 from her. That same day, Ms. Hebert tendered a cashier's check to Rathborne's attorney in the amount of $16, 343.00, and the seizure was halted. The following day, Rathborne sent another notice to vacate the premises as well as a demand for additional money. A letter included with the demand indicated that the Petition for Sequestration and Rule for Possession of Premises would be dismissed because of the $16, 343.00 payment. Rathborne never filed for a dismissal.

         On October 8, 2015, Global and Ms. Hebert filed a petition for damages in which they alleged that Rathborne, through its agent, had entered into a contractual agreement concerning the payment of rent owed, which Rathborne breached in bad faith in causing the writ of sequestration to be issued. In addition to the return of money paid in excess of the rent owed under the lease agreement, Ms. Hebert and Global sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, unjust enrichment, intentional tort, and abuse of process. The trial court granted a motion to transfer filed by Rathborne to have the case consolidated with the sequestration proceedings. Rathborne also filed peremptory exceptions of no cause of action and no right of action, which were denied by the trial court. On July 15, 2016, Rathborne filed an answer and affirmative defenses to plaintiffs' petition for damages, wherein they refuted the existence of any agreement regarding payment of past due rent prior to the October 15 departure. Rathborne also filed reconventional demands against Global and Ms. Hebert for rent owed for the month of October, 2015, and for damages to the leased premises.

         Following a two-day bench trial, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Ms. Hebert and Global. In its reasons for judgment, the trial court found that a contract had been formed between the parties regarding the payment of past due rent and the date that Global was to vacate the premises, and that the writ of sequestration was therefore wrongfully issued in violation of that agreement. Rathborne was ordered to pay $27, 784.27, a sum which includes the difference between the delinquent rent owed and what Ms. Hebert paid to stop the sequestration, attorney's fees due for wrongful sequestration under La. C.C.P. art. 3506, and general damages to Ms. Hebert individually. The trial court further found that Global had caused $2, 103.33 in damages to the leased premises and awarded Rathborne that amount, making the total award from Rathborne to Global and Ms. Hebert the sum of $25, 680.94. Rathborne filed a motion for a new trial which was denied by the trial court. This timely appeal follows.

         On appeal, Rathborne raises multiple assignments of error which generally concern the following issues: 1) the existence of an agreement to forebear, or promise of payment between the parties; 2) the award of general damages to Ms. Hebert; 3) the amount of the award for damages to the property; and 4) the award of attorney's fees. In response, Global and Ms. Hebert filed an answer to Rathborne's appeal seeking an increase in the award of attorney's fees.

         DISCUSSION

         Agreement ...


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