FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. C-20180458 HONORABLE LAURIE A. HULIN, DISTRICT
P. Lambert COUNSEL FOR APPELLANTS: Suzanne Savoy Santillo,
LLC and Suzanne Savoy Santillo
M. Richard Robert D. Felder Davidson, Meaux, Sonnier,
McElligott, Fontenot, Gideon & Edwards, L.L.P. COUNSEL
FOR APPELLEE: GR Restaurants, LLC
W. Stewart Gibson Law Partners, LLC COUNSEL FOR APPELLEES:
Scott L. Sternberg and Sternberg, Nacarri & White, LLC
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy Howard Ezell, and Phyllis
M. Keaty, Judges.
R. COOKS JUDGE.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 15, 2018, GR Restaurants, LLC (hereafter GRR) filed
suit against Suzanne Savoy Santillo, LLC and Suzanne Savoy
Santillo (hereafter collectively referred to as
"Santillo") for detrimental reliance, alleging that
Santillo promised to exchange her ownership in the Blue Dog
Café in Lafayette for an interest in a new, re-formed
entity that owned both Blue Dog Cafes in Lafayette and Lake
Charles, but then refused to abide by this agreement. Prior
to the above suit, Santillo had filed suit against Stephen
Santillo, Jacques Rodrigue and Andre Rodrigue, the owners and
members of Blue Collar Enterprises, which owns the Blue Dog
Café in Lafayette, alleging breaches of fiduciary
duties and misappropriation of intellectual property.
answered the suit filed by GRR and filed an exception of no
cause of action, contending GRR could not have a viable
detrimental reliance claim in the absence of a signed,
written settlement agreement. Santillo also filed
reconventional and third-party demands alleging the filing of
the detrimental reliance lawsuit by GRR was an abuse of
process and a violation of Louisiana's Unfair Trade
Practices Act (LUPTA), La.R.S. 51:1401, et seq. GRR was made
defendant in reconvention. Jacques Rodrigue, Scott L.
Sternberg, and Sternberg, Nacarri & White, LLC (hereafter
"Sternberg," which represented Rodrigue in the
litigation) were made third-party defendants. After the
third-party demand was filed, Sternberg withdrew from
representing Rodrigue and another attorney was hired.
filed an exception of no cause of action with regard to the
third-party demand. GRR filed an exception of no cause of
action with regard to the reconventional demand. Rodrigue did
not file any exception.
exceptions, including Santillo's earlier filed exception
of no cause of action, were heard on June 25, 2018. The trial
court denied Santillo's exception of no cause of action
as to GRR's detrimental reliance claim. The trial court
granted both GRR's exception of no cause of action with
regard to the reconventional demand and Sternberg's
exception of no cause of action to the third-party demand.
judgment was signed on July 3, 2018, granting the exceptions
of no cause of action filed by GRR and Sternberg. Santillo
filed a petition for appeal as to this judgment. The trial
court, on its own motion, issued a rule to Santillo to show
cause why the appeal should not be dismissed as having been
taken from a partial judgment that had not been designated as
immediately appealable, with respect to the dismissal of
Santillo's reconventional demand, and from being taken
from a judgment that lacked proper decretal language with
respect to the dismissal of Santillo's third-party
claims. On December 6, 2018, this court issued an opinion
recalling the rule, in part, with respect to the dismissal of
Santillo's reconventional demand against GRR, finding
that portion of the judgment fell under La.Code Civ.P. art.
1915(A) and did not require a designation of finality. Thus,
the appeal was suspended, and the matter remanded to the
trial court with instructions to sign a judgment containing
proper decretal language specifying that Santillo's
third-party demands were dismissed only as to Sternberg, as
the other third-party defendant did not file an exception.
GR Rest., LLC v. Suzanne Savoy Santillo, LLC, 18-702
(La.App. 3 Cir. 12/6/18) (unpublished opinion). The trial
court complied with our order to sign a judgment with proper
decretal language and the appeal is now before this court
again for a ruling on the merits of Santillo's appeal.
judgment was also signed on July 6, 2018, denying the
exception of no cause of action filed by Santillo with
respect to the petition for detrimental reliance filed by
GRR. Santillo timely filed a writ application to this court,
docket number 18-637, seeking a review of the denial of the
no cause of action exception. GRR filed an opposition to the
writ application. The disposition of the writ application was
held in abeyance until the procedural issues in the appeal of
the July 3, 2018 judgment was resolved.
the issuance of the rule in docket number 18-702, Santillo
filed an ex parte motion to enroll Stephen Carleton as
co-counsel of record. That order was signed by this court on
October 1, 2018. GRR and Sternberg filed separate motions to
disqualify Carleton, contending he was a fact witness and
could not act as counsel of record pursuant to La.Rules
Prof.Conduct, Rule 3.7(a), which provides an attorney cannot
be both an advocate and a necessary witness at trial unless
the testimony is related to an uncontested issue, is related
to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the
case, or the disqualification would be a substantial hardship
to the client.
represented Santillo in the lawsuit filed against Stephen
Santillo, Jacques Rodrigue and Andre Rodrigue. Carleton
attested he was counsel of record for Santillo in that action
and stated the allegations contained in the answer. In the
opposition to the motion to disqualify, Santillo asserted
Carleton was enrolled as co-counsel solely for the purposes
of the appeal, as her main counsel was on extended vacation
at the time (October of 2018). Santillo maintained Carleton
would not serve as counsel at trial should her appeal be
successful. However, Santillo did not address the fact that
only Santillo's reconventional demands and third-party
demands had been dismissed. Santillo's exception of no
cause of action was denied, and the main demand brought by
GRR is to proceed to trial.
December 28, 2018, this court granted the writ application
filed by Santillo for the limited purpose of ordering the
consolidation of the writ application, docket number 18-637,
with the appeal, docket number 18-702. We held as follows:
WRIT GRANTED. In the above captioned writ
application, Relators, Suzanne Savoy Santillo, LLC and
Suzanne Savoy Santillo, seek review of the trial court's
July 6, 2018 judgment, which denied Relators' exception
of no cause of action. Relators have also filed an appeal
from the trial court's July 3, 2018 judgment (which is
identical to the July 6, 2018 judgment), granting the
exception of no cause of action filed by GR Restaurants, LLC,
with respect to Relators' reconventional demand and from
the December 7, 2018 judgment granting the exceptions of no
cause of action filed on behalf of Scott L. Sternberg and
Sternberg, Naccari & White, LLC, with respect to
Relators' third-party demand. This court has noted that
"although an interlocutory judgment is generally not
appealable, an interlocutory judgment is subject to review on
appeal when an appealable judgment has been rendered."
Moran v. Columb Foundation, Inc., 17-915, pp. 4-5
(La.App. 3 Cir. 1/31/18) (unreported opinion). In the
interests of judicial economy and justice, this court grants
this writ application for the limited purpose of ordering the
consolidation of the writ application with the appeal lodged
in this court under docket number 18-702.
this court presently is Santillo's writ application
contending the trial court erred in denying its exception of
no cause of action that GRR could not have a detrimental
reliance claim in the absence of a signed, written settlement
agreement. Also before us is Santillo's appeal asserting
that the trial court erred in granting the exceptions of no
cause of action as to Santillo's abuse of process claim
and to Santillo's claims that GRR violated LUTPA.
function of an exception of no cause of action is to test the
legal sufficiency of the petition by determining whether the
law affords a remedy on the facts alleged in the
pleading." Everything on Wheels Subaru, Inc. v.
Subaru S., Inc., 616 So.2d 1234, 1235 (La.1993). Because
the exception of no cause of action raises a question of law,
it is reviewed on appeal de novo. Peters v. Allen Parish
Sch. Bd., 08-323 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/5/08), 996 So.2d
1230. The burden of proof lies with the moving party, and the
"pertinent question is whether, in the light most
favorable to [the] plaintiff and with every doubt resolved in
[the] plaintiff's behalf, the petition states any valid
cause of action for relief." Ramey v. DeCaire,
03-1299, p. 8 (La. 3/19/04), 869 So.2d 114, 119. Dismissal is
appropriate when the allegations in the petition clearly show
that the plaintiff does not have a cause of action, or when
the allegations in the petition clearly reveal the existence
of an affirmative defense. Rogers v. Ash Grove Cement
Co., 34, 934 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/2/01), 799 So.2d 841,
writ denied, 01-3187 (La. 2/8/02), 808 So.2d 351.
to La.Code Civ.P. art. 931, no evidence may be admitted to
support or oppose an exception of no cause of action. Thus,
the court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of fact in
the petition as true and determine whether, on the face of
the petition, the plaintiff is legally entitled to the relief
sought. Everything on Wheels, 616 So.2d 1234.
Conclusory allegations unsupported by facts are insufficient
to support a cause of action. Ramey, 869 So.2d 114.
Detrimental Reliance Lawsuit.
reliance is a doctrine designed to prevent injustice by
barring a party from taking a position contrary to his prior
acts, admissions, representations, or silence. Luther v.
IOM Co., LLC, 13-353 (La. 10/15/13), 130 So.3d 817.