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Seals v. Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

November 20, 2019

DE ROME A. SEALS
v.
FRANKLIN AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH OF NEW ORLEANS, LA

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-11336, DIVISION "G-11" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge

          De Rome A. Seals COUNSEL FOR PRO SE PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, DE ROME A. SEALS

          Michael G. Bagneris DAVILLIER LAW GROUP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, FRANKLIN AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Dale N. Atkins

          TERRI F. LOVE JUDGE.

         This appeal arises from damages allegedly sustained by plaintiff when he was driving a bus for defendant. The bus experienced two flat tires on the day plaintiff was driving, which he contends caused him undue stress. Plaintiff also asserts that defendant owes him a refund for a deposit he placed for a choir trip he could not attend. Numerous motions for summary judgment were filed. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, which maintained that plaintiff had no evidence of defendant's alleged negligence or that he was entitled to a refund.

         Upon review, we find that no genuine issues of material fact exist because plaintiff failed to establish that genuine issues of material fact exist as to defendant's alleged negligence once defendant pointed out an absence of factual support. No exhibits or documents were attached to plaintiff's opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment granting defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 24, 2015, De Rome Seals drove a bus for Franklin Avenue Baptist Church ("FABC") to and from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, which contained members of the Heart to Heart congregation. On the way to Port Sulphur, the bus experienced a flat tire. Due to the design of the bus, Mr. Seals was able to complete the drive to Port Sulphur. Upon arrival, Mr. Seals coordinated repairs. On the return trip to FABC, the bus experienced another flat tire. Mr. Seals contacted service personnel and again coordinated repairs.

         Separate and distinct from the bus trip, Mr. Seals paid a $60 down payment for a trip with the FABC Male Choral Tour. However, after signing up and paying the down payment, Mr. Seals realized he would be unable to partake in the trip. He sought a complete refund of his down payment, which was not granted.

         Mr. Seals filed a complaint in forma pauperis against FABC contending that the bus' flat tires were a result of FABC's negligence and that he suffered the aggravation of a pre-existing illness, [1] anxiety, embarrassment, spiritual confusion, humiliation, and stress. He also averred that FABC owed him a $60 refund for his trip down payment. Mr. Seals asserted that he was due $25, 000, 000.00 in damages.

         A few months after filing the complaint, Mr. Seals filed his first Motion for Summary Judgment, which the trial court denied. Mr. Seals then sought appellate review of the denial. This Court ordered the dismissal of his appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Mr. Seals filed two subsequent Motions for Summary Judgment, which were both denied by the trial court. After Mr. Seals contended that he was not a part of FABC's transportation ministry, FABC filed an exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. FABC maintained that if Mr. Seals was not in the transportation ministry, then he was an employee of FABC, which placed his claims in worker's compensation law as opposed to tort law.

         Mr. Seals opposed the exception and then filed a fourth Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that he was entitled to judgment because he possessed an affidavit of an alleged tire expert who stated that the bus tires were dry rotted.[2] FABC opposed the fourth Motion for Summary Judgment, but also filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, which alleged that there were no genuine issues of material fact because, while the flat tires caused Mr. Seals inconvenience, he did not expend any personal funds for repairs. Additionally, Mr. Seals did not produce evidence of negligence sufficient to establish that genuine issues of material fact exist. The trial court denied Mr. Seals' fourth Motion for Summary Judgment and granted FABC's Motion for Summary Judgment.[3] The trial court also determined that an outstanding Motion to Strike[4] was rendered moot and denied FABC's Motion Compel.[5] Mr. Seals' Notice of Appeal of the judgment followed.

         Mr. Seals asserts numerous assignments of error, but his central contention is that the trial court erred by granting FABC's Motion for Summary Judgment ...


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