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Henry v. Precision Holdings, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

June 12, 2019

ROSA BERNARD HENRY
v.
PRECISION HOLDINGS, LLC, ET AL.

          ON APPLICATION FOR SUPERVISORY WRITS FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. 2010-0237 HONORABLE THOMAS R. DUPLANTIER, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Joseph C. Giglio, Jr. William E. Kellner Liskow & Lewis, APLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPLICANTS: Warren A. Perrin Gerald C. deLaunay Donald Landry

          Sera H. Russell, III Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT: Scott A. Dartez, APLC

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Shannon J. Gremillion, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.

         From the trial court's denial of their exceptions of no cause of action, improper joinder of parties, and improper use of summary proceedings, Applicants, Warren Perrin, Donald Landry, and Gerald deLaunay, seek supervisory relief. For the reasons that follow, we grant Applicants' request for relief and make it peremptory.

         FACTS

         The underlying suit captioned above is an environmental-damages suit which has been completely settled between the parties. The plaintiff in the underlying action had been represented by several attorneys, including Respondent, Scott A. Dartez, APLC. Mr. Dartez had been in a law partnership known as Perrin, Landry, deLaunay, Dartez & Ouellet (the Firm), but he and another attorney left the Firm. The parties to the partnership entered into a Partnership Termination Agreement. Pursuant to the settlements reached in the underlying suit, $900, 000.00 is to be paid to the former members of the Firm.

         Mr. Dartez filed a Motion for Division of Attorney's Fees by Summary Proceeding within the underlying suit, even though all claims from the original action had been dismissed through the settlements. In this motion, Mr. Dartez averred that the termination agreement "would mandate that the fees be divided as follows. Nine percent to Mr. Perrin, nine percent to Mr. Landry, nine percent to Mr. Delaunay [sic], and nine percent to Mr. Ouellet. This leaves a remainder of sixty-four percent to go to Mr. Dartez." The motion concludes, "WHEREFORE, SCOTT A. DARTEZ, APLC[, ] prays that the former members of his firm, WARREN PERRIN, DONALD LANDRY, AND GERALD DELAUNAY be served with this motion and that the Court set a hearing on a 'Rule Docket' for the resolution of this matter." As stated above, Applicants filed the exceptions of no cause of action, lack of subject matter jurisdiction and improper joinder, and improper use of summary proceedings. Following a hearing on these exceptions, the trial court denied them. Applicants then filed a notice of intent to seek supervisory relief, followed by their application.

         ANALYSIS

         The exception of unauthorized use of summary proceeding

         The first argument advanced by Applicants is that summary proceedings are inappropriate for disposition of the issues being raised by Respondent's motion. Applicants point out that in order to divide the attorney fees, the trial court must interpret and apply the provisions of the termination agreement. Furthermore, Applicants observe that Respondent seeks a declaratory judgment in his motion. Applicants posit that declaratory judgment actions are by ordinary proceedings, not summary proceedings. Citing La.Code Civ.P. art. 2592, Applicants assert that this article provides an exclusive list of matters which can be tried by summary proceedings, and this motion does not fit within those limited categories. Therefore, Applicants ask that this court reverse the trial court's denial of the exception of improper use of summary proceedings and enter judgment granting this exception.

         The transcript of the hearing on Applicants' exceptions is provided to this court as an exhibit to the writ application. During the discussions between counsel and the trial court, the trial court expressed concern over the fact that in a prior meeting in chambers, the trial court had been under the impression that Applicants had filed or were going to file an action to decide the appropriate interpretation of the termination ...


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