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Camalo v. Courtois

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 2, 2019

MARGARET C. CAMALO, ET AL.
v.
PATRICIA LAURA ESTRADA COURTOIS, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. C-20164520 HONORABLE LAURIE A. HULIN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          Alan K. Breaud Timothy Wayne Basden Breaud & Meyers COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Margaret C. Camalo Frank Camalo

          Joseph C. Giglio, Jr. Liskow & Lewis COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Joseph C. Giglio, III Margaret Peggy Giglio

          John S. McLindon Walters Papillion Thomas The Law Office of John S. McLindon COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: Cye Thomas Courtois Patricia Laura Estrada Courtois

          Jonathan Beauregard Andry The Andry Law Firm COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: Cye Thomas Courtois Patricia Laura Estrada Courtois

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Billy Howard Ezell, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          Billy Howard Ezell, Judge.

         Cye and Patricia Courtois appeal the judgment of the trial court below awarding Margaret and Frank Camalo $108, 250.66, and Margaret and Joseph Giglio $65, 000.00, in attorney fees for work necessitated by the Courtois fraudulently altering neighborhood restrictions to the Camalos and Giglios detriment. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

         This matter has been before this court previously, both as an appeal and under our supervisory jurisdiction. This litigation is part of a large and vitriolic property dispute between the Courtois and two sets of their neighbors, the Giglios on one side and the Camalos on the other. This matter began when the Courtois deliberately misled other neighbors in the parties' subdivision into altering neighborhood restrictions on setbacks to allow the Courtois to build in a manner which encroached upon the Camalos' and the Giglios' property against the Plaintiffs' will and the restrictions. The Camalos and Giglios brought suits for fraud and to rescind the alterations to the neighborhood restrictions that were made based upon the Courtois' deceit. As the dispute became increasingly contentious, a preliminary injunction was issued preventing the parties from communicating with each other, ordering the parties to refrain from harassing each other, and from damaging each other's property. After Mr. Courtois deliberately violated this injunction by damaging a stone wall, drainage, trees, and shrubs on the Giglios' property, he was held in contempt of court by the trial court.

         After a trial on the present matter, the trial court rendered a partial final judgment in June of 2018 finding that the Courtois committed fraud. The trial court's finding of fraud has not been challenged by the Courtois. The trial court awarded damages for that fraud, for destruction of property, and other general damages. Those awards have also not been challenged. Finally, as part of that partial judgment, the trial court awarded attorney fees, the amount of which were to be determined after a contradictory hearing. After that separate hearing on attorney fees, the trial court entered a final judgment in August of 2018, awarding the Camalos $108, 250.66 in attorney fees and expenses for the prosecution of this lengthy and hard-fought case. The trial court further awarded the Giglios $65, 000.00 in attorney fees. From that August 2018 decision, the Courtois appeal.

         On appeal, the Courtois set forth four assignments of error. They claim that the trial court erred in signing the August 2018 judgment, as they allege it lacks the proper decretal language to be a final judgment. The Courtois further claim that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees under La.Civ.Code art. 1958, that the award of attorney fees was grossly excessive, and that the trial court should not have awarded the Giglios attorney fees at all, as no attorney fees were paid or incurred by them. We disagree.

         Decretal Language

         The Courtois first allege that the trial court's final judgment lacked sufficient decretal language and was, therefore, not a proper final judgment. We disagree.

         This court has stated that "[a] valid judgment must be precise, definite, and certain. A final appealable judgment must contain decretal language, and it must name the party in favor of whom the ruling is ordered, the party against whom the ruling is ordered, and the relief that is granted or denied." State v. White, 05-718, p. 2 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/1/06), 921 So.2d 1144, 1146 (quoting Jenkins v. Recovery Tech. Inv'rs., 02-1788, pp. 3-4 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/27/03), 858 So.2d 598, 600) (citations omitted). Furthermore, "a judgment cannot require reference to extrinsic documents or pleadings in order to discern the court's ruling." Stutes v. Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc., ...


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