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Meadows v. Adams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

August 7, 2019

JASON MEADOWS, INDIVIDUALLY AND JASON MEADOWS ON BEHALF OF SOUTHERN CROSS MARINE SERVICES, LLC
v.
CHRISTY ADAMS

          On Appeal from the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Docket No. 2015-12840 Honorable Alan A. Zaunbrecher, Judge Presiding

          Jason R. Anders Sean McAllister Mandeville, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Jason Meadows

          David C. Spinner Galen M. Hair New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee Christy Adams

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         In this appeal, plaintiff seeks this Court's reversal of a trial court judgment granting defendant's motion to enforce settlement agreement and dismissing plaintiff's claims with prejudice. Review of the record reveals that the appeal was not timely filed, therefore requiring dismissal.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Christy Adams ("Adams") and Jason Meadows ("Meadows") were formerly married. A Petition for Divorce was filed on June 5, 2014. The divorce proceedings were captioned "Christy Adams, wife of Jason Meadows, versus Jason Meadows, Twenty-Second Judicial District Court, Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana, Docket No. 2014-12593, Division H" ("divorce proceedings"). A Consent Judgment on Partition of Community Property ("Consent Judgment") was executed by both parties and signed by the trial court on August 29, 2014. Under the terms of the Consent Judgment, Meadows received one hundred percent (100%) right, title and interest in and to Southern Cross Marine, LLC. ("Southern Cross"), and agreed to assume full liability for holding Adams free and harmless from any responsibility for any and all debts associated with any property received by Meadows as a result of the community property partition.

         On July 17, 2015, Meadows initiated the lawsuit from which this appeal arose ("the instant proceedings") by filing a Petition for Damages ("Petition"). The Petition alleged that Adams had been employed at Southern Cross during the parties' marriage, and in connection with that employment, she had failed to pay various creditors, dishonored contracts, incurred liability on behalf of the business, and wrongfully taken business funds for personal use. Adams answered the Petition, denying the allegations of wrongdoing. Litigation commenced.

         On October 11, 2016, a hearing was held in the divorce proceedings on various pending motions filed by the parties. Following a conference with the trial court, the parties announced their intent to resolve the matters by stipulation, the terms of which were dictated into the record. On December 21, 2016, the trial court signed a Stipulated Judgment memorializing the terms agreed to at the October 11, 2016 hearing ("Stipulated Judgment"). The first two provisions of the Stipulated Judgment read as follows:

1. All open and/or pending contempt motions and sanctions motions filed by both parties are dismissed with prejudice, with each party to bear its own costs;
2. All outstanding issues in Judge Penzato's Division concerning pending matters between the parties are dismissed, with each party to bear its own costs.

         On June 15, 2017, Adams filed a Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice ("Motion to Dismiss") in the instant proceedings. In the Motion to Dismiss, Adams relied on the Consent Judgment, the October 11, 2016 hearing, and the Stipulated Judgment, citing the provision in the Stipulated Judgment that "[a]ll outstanding issues in Judge PenzatoP]s Division concerning [p]ending matters between the parties are dismissed." Meadows filed an Opposition to Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice. On July 3, 2017, the Clerk of Court notified the parties by letter that the Motion to Dismiss had been denied by Judge Fendlason, Pro Tempore, Division H.

         On November 6, 2017, asserting that the claims set forth in the Petition were barred by the Consent Judgment, Adams filed Defendant's Peremptory Exception of No Cause of Action, No Right of Action, and Prescription, and Motion to Enforce Settlement, which Meadows opposed. Following a March 23, 2018 hearing, the trial court signed a judgment granting the Motion to Enforce Settlement and dismissing Meadows' claims with prejudice on May 8, 2018. Notice of Judgment was mailed May 9, 2018.

         Meadows filed a Motion for New Trial by facsimile on May 17, 2018. The pleading transmitted to the Clerk of Court by facsimile was signed with counsel's electronic signature. Meadows delivered the Motion for New Trial to the Clerk of Court on May 24, 2018. However, the pleading delivered to the Clerk of Court was signed with counsel's handwritten signature, unlike the Motion for New Trial transmitted by facsimile bearing counsel's electronic signature. The trial court denied the Motion for New Trial without a hearing on May 29, 2018.

         Meadows then filed a Petition for Devolutive Appeal by facsimile on July 13, 2018. As with the Motion for New Trial, the pleading transmitted to the Clerk of Court by facsimile was signed with counsel's electronic signature, and the pleading delivered to the Clerk of Court on July 18, 2018, was signed with counsel's handwritten signature.

         Adams filed a Motion to Dismiss Appeal and Request for Suspension of Briefing Delays with this Court on November 12, 2018. The Motion to Dismiss Appeal was referred to the merits of the appeal by an interim order dated December 7, 2018. Accordingly, we must first address this Motion in order to determine whether this Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

         MOTION TO DISMISS APPEAL; TIMELINESS OF APPEAL

         An appeal is taken by obtaining an order therefor, within the delay allowed, from the court which rendered the judgment. LSA-C.C.P. art. 2121. The appeal delays found in LSA-C.C.P. art. 2087 are not prescriptive periods that are subject to interruption; these time limits are jurisdictional. An appellant's failure to file a devolutive appeal timely is a jurisdictional defect, in that neither the court of appeal nor any other court has the jurisdictional power and authority to reverse, revise, or modify a final judgment after the time for filing a devolutive appeal has elapsed. Everett v. Baton Rouge Student Housing, LLC, 2010-0856 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/6/11), 64 So.3d 883, 886, writ denied, ...


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