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Bradford v. Walker Automotive

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 6, 2019



          Bonita K. Preuett-Armour Armour Law Firm COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: State Farm Mutual AutomobileInsurance Company

          Lottie L. Bash Faircloth, Melton, Sobel & Bash, LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Walker Automotive James Boyd

          Christopher D. Meyer Burr & Forman COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Exeter Finance, LLC

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy Howard Ezell, and John E. Conery, Judges.


         Christopher Bradford appeals the decision of the trial court below granting an involuntary dismissal against him in favor of Walker Automotive and James Boyd. For the following reasons, we hereby affirm the decision of the trial court.

         This suit arises from the purchase of a 2012 Dodge Journey (SUV) by Mr. Bradford and Ronee Boyer from Walker Automotive. Mr. Boyd was the salesman who sold the Plaintiffs the vehicle, which was sold "as is" on October 4, 2016. All paperwork finalizing the sale, including financing and Walker's agreement to fix minor existing issues with the vehicle, was completed at that time and signed by the Plaintiffs. Work was done to the bumper and a "check engine" light was fixed, as per the sales agreement. The Plaintiffs took the vehicle with no further complaints around October 12, 2016.

         At the trial court below, Mr. Bradford alleges pro se, through several amended petitions, that Mr. Boyd either damaged the vehicle after the sale was finalized or withheld information regarding its condition prior to the sale. He further alleges that Walker performed work on the vehicle without authorization. At trial, after the conclusion of the Plaintiffs' evidence, Walker and Boyd moved for an involuntary dismissal, which was granted by the trial court. From that decision, Mr. Bradford appeals.[1]

         Mr. Bradford has not set forth any true assignments of error on appeal. However, "a pro se litigant may be afforded some leeway or patience in the form of liberally construed pleading[.]" Manichia v. Mahoney, 10-87, p. 8 (La.App. 4 Cir. 8/4/10), 45 So.3d 618, 622, writ denied, 10-2259 (La. 11/24/10), 50 So.3d 829. Accordingly, we will deal with Mr. Bradford's claims as best as we can determine them to be.

         Mr. Bradford complains in his brief that Plaintiffs did not receive a jury trial and requests that this matter be sent back to be heard by a jury. However, La.Code Civ.P. art. 1732 states in part: "A trial by jury shall not be available in . . . [a] suit where the amount of no individual petitioner's cause of action exceeds fifty thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs[.]" Plaintiffs both agreed in a stipulation filed on February 7, 2019, that their damages did not exceed $50, 000.00. "A stipulation has the effect of binding all parties and the court." Harris v. West Carroll Parish Sch. Bd., 605 So.2d 610, 613 (La.App. 2 Cir.), writ denied, 609 So.2d 255 (La.1992). Furthermore, in that stipulation, Plaintiffs stated that they understood that by making that agreement, they would not be entitled to a jury trial, but instead would have their case heard by the trial court judge below. The Plaintiffs clearly agreed to a judge trial and are not entitled to a trial by jury. There is no error in the manner in which this case was heard.

         Next, Mr. Bradford mentions Exeter Finance, LLC in his brief, quickly and in passing, though he does not challenge the company's dismissal via its exception of no cause of action. For the sake of thoroughness, we will briefly address Exeter's dismissal.

         An exception of no cause of action asks whether the law extends a remedy to anyone under the factual allegations made in the petition. Mid-South Plumbing, LLC v. Dev. Consortium-Shelly Arms, L.L.C., 12-1731 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/23/13), 126 So.3d 732. The exception is triable on the face of the petition and each well-pleaded fact included within must be accepted as true. Id. No evidence may be introduced to support or refute an exception of no cause of action. La.Code Civ. Proc. art. 931.

         Appellate courts conduct a de novo review of a trial court's ruling granting an exception of no cause of action, as the exception presents questions of law. St. Pierre v. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., 12-545 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/24/12), 102 So.3d 1003. Therefore, our review entails ...

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