Appealed from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Number
668198 Honorable R. Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding
Lawrence Blake Jones David C. Whitmore New Orleans, LA
Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Joseph Ray Alfred
J. Nalley, Jr. Andrew J. Miner Metairie, LA Counsel for
Defendant/Appellee RPM Pizza, LLC
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.
Joseph Ray Alfred, appeals a judgment of the district court
maintaining the exception of res judicata filed by RPM Pizza,
LLC ("RPM Pizza"), and dismissing all claims
against RPM Pizza and its insurers with prejudice. For the
following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the district
court and remand this matter to the district court for
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 12, 2018, Mr. Alfred filed a petition for damages,
naming as defendants, RPM Pizza and its insurer, ABC
Insurance Company. In his petition, Mr. Alfred alleged that
on June 7, 2017, he was operating his 1999 Dodge truck in a
northerly direction on Verot School Road, in Lafayette,
Louisiana when suddenly and without warning, he was struck by
a 2017 Hyundai Elantra operated by Breydon Romero. Mr. Alfred
further alleged that Mr. Romero, who was pulling out from the
Domino's Pizza restaurant on Verot School Road, was in
the course and scope of his employment with RPM Pizza at the
time of the accident, and that accordingly, RPM Pizza was
liable under the principles of respondeat superior.
response to the petition, RPM Pizza filed an exception of res
judicata, contending that the claims asserted therein had
already been compromised in full by Mr. Alfred. Mr. Alfred
executed a release, dated January 9, 2017,  releasing Mr.
Romero and his parents Kenneth and Rachael along with their
automobile insurer, State Farm Mutual, in exchange for
fifteen thousand dollars. The release further released
"all other persons, firms or corporations liable or, who
might be claimed to be liable" from "any and all
claims, demands, damages, actions, causes of action or suits
of any kind or nature" which "have resulted or may
in the future develop from" the accident which occurred
on or about June 7, 2017 on Verot School Road. The release
concluded with the following paragraph:
Undersigned hereby declares that the terms of this settlement
have been completely read and are fully understood and
voluntarily accepted for the purpose of making a full and
final compromise adjustment and settlement of any and all
claims, disputed or otherwise, on account of the injuries and
damages above mentioned, and for the express purpose of
precluding forever any further or additional claims arising
out of the aforesaid accident.
Pizza contended that the broadly drafted compromise and
release entered into by Mr. Alfred, without a reservation of
rights to proceed against additional parties, was conclusive
as to all parties, including RPM Pizza and its insurers for
any alleged vicarious liability above the settlement amount.
RPM Pizza prayed that the district court grant its exception
and dismiss Mr. Alfred's claims against it with
prejudice. Attached in support of the exception was the
release signed by Mr. Alfred.
Alfred opposed RPM Pizza's exception, asserting several
alternative arguments. First, Mr. Alfred contended that RPM
Pizza was not a party to any release, and therefore was not
entitled to plead res judicata, or otherwise benefit from the
release. Mr. Alfred further asserted that in the event that
RPM Pizza could plead res judicata, there was no evidence
that he intended to release RPM Pizza. Mr. Alfred also
contended that because the scope of the release was under
review, extrinsic evidence could be considered to determine
the differences the parties to the compromise intended to
settle. Pursuant to this argument, Mr. Alfred executed and
attached an affidavit to his opposition, asserting therein
that: (1) it was his intention to only release Mr. Romero,
his parents, Kenneth and Rachael, and their insurer State
Farm, for their personal liability insurance; (2) he never
intended to release Mr. Romero in his capacity as an employee
of Domino's Pizza and/or RPM Pizza, or to release RPM
Pizza, nor any of its insurers; and (3) to his knowledge, RPM
Pizza did not contribute anything to the settlement with the
Romeros and their personal liability insurer, State Farm.
Finally, Mr. Alfred contended that there were questions as to
the validity of the release itself due to the discrepancy
between the date of the release, January 9, 2017, and the
date of the accident, June 7, 2017. In an effort to cure that
defect, and clarify the intent of his original release, Mr.
Alfred submitted a revised release to the Romeros and State
Farm, and also attached it as an exhibit to his opposition.
The most notable change in the amended release was the
addition of a reservation of rights "against RPM Pizza,
LLC and his uninsured motorist carrier."
RPM Pizza filed a reply memorandum in support of its
exception. First, RPM Pizza objected to the introduction of
Mr. Alfred's affidavit as hearsay. Next, RPM Pizza urged
that Mr. Alfred's allegation that the original release
was not genuine because it was mis-dated was meritless.
Finally, RPM Pizza contended that Louisiana jurisprudence was
clear that without a reservation of rights, the broad
language found in the release was sufficient to release a
potentially vicariously liable employer.
hearing on the exception was held on August 6, 2018, during
which the district court sustained RPM Pizza's objection
to Mr. Alfred's affidavit in support of his opposition.
After hearing the arguments of the parties, the district
court also sustained RPM Pizza's exception of res
judicata and ordered the parties to prepare a judgment. A
judgment was signed in ...