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LLC v. St. John Baptist Parish School Board

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 11, 2019

RONALD'S LAWN SERVICE, LLC
v.
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

          ON APPEAL FROM THE FORTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 67, 520, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE J. STERLING SNOWDY, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, RONALD'S LAWN SERVICE, LLC DaShawn P. Hayes.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH SCHOOL BOARD Kevin P. Klibert.

          Panel composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Robert A. Chaisson, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          MARC E. JOHNSON, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff/Appellant, Ronald's Lawn Service, LLC (hereinafter referred to as "RLS"), appeals the summary judgment that dismissed its petition for breach of contract in favor of Defendant/Appellee, St. John the Baptist Parish School Board (hereinafter referred to as "the School Board"), from the 40th Judicial District Court, Division "C". For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 6, 2015, RLS filed its "Petition for Breach of Contract." In its petition, RLS alleged that it entered into a contract with the School Board on July 15, 2013 for ongoing services, labor, and materials for lawn care and maintenance of several school campuses. The petition stated that the amount owed for all of its services rendered was $149, 832 per 12-month period beginning on June 7, 2013 and ending on March 31, 2016. RLS further alleged that the School Board terminated the contract on September 5, 2013 without any cause or written notice within 30 days of the termination. It contended the School Board was liable to it for the full sum of the contract. The School Board answered the petition on April 28, 2015, admitting that the amount of the contract for all services rendered as contracted was $149, 832 per 12-month period beginning on June 7, 2013 and ending on March 31, 2016 and that the termination date of the contract was September 5, 2013. It then denied RLS's allegation that it performed all services and work or lawn care and maintenance in accordance with customary industry standards with the contract. The School Board then raised the affirmative defense that RLS failed to perform its obligations under the contract, which was the cause of the termination.

         Two years later, the School Board filed its "Motion for Summary Judgment" on April 28, 2017. In its motion, the School Board asserted it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because a release of all claims for ground maintenance (hereinafter referred to as "the Agreement") was executed between the parties, and the settlement of $2, 400 was a full and final payment. The School Board filed an ex parte motion on May 1, 2017 to supplement its motion for summary judgment with a copy of the Agreement, which was granted by the trial court. RLS opposed the motion on April 4, 2018, and argued it had a "fixed-term" contract with the School Board that was terminated without just cause. Thus, RLS averred the Agreement did not compensate it or release and/or discharge any of its claims remaining through March 31, 2016. RLS also objected to the supplementation and admission of the Agreement.

         The hearing on the motion for summary judgment was held on April 4, 2018. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court admitted the Agreement into evidence and orally granted the summary judgment. The trial court reasoned that the Agreement covered all of the claims contemplated in RLS's lawsuit. A written judgment granting the summary judgment in favor the School Board and dismissing RLS's lawsuit with prejudice was rendered on April 27, 2018. The instant appeal followed.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         In its sole assignment of error, RLS alleges the trial court erred in granting the School Board's Motion for Summary Judgment based simply upon the Agreement. It argues that its petition alleged the employment contract term with the School Board was from June 7, 2013 through March 31, 2016, and the Agreement only discharged duties and obligations owed for a three-month period out of the nearly three-year contract; thus, all of its claims against the School Board were not discharged in that document. As a result, RLS contends there are genuine issues of material fact remaining in this matter. It further argues that the School Board did not present competent evidence in support of its motion because the Agreement was not accompanied by an affidavit.

         In opposition, the School Board avers that the Agreement signed was unambiguous and contemplated the same claims asserted by RLS in its lawsuit. It argues that the claims in RLS's petition are the same claims contemplated and released in the Agreement by use of the inclusive language "claims, demands, damages, actions, causes of action or suits of any kind in nature." The School Board further avers no evidence that supports RLS's claims of the contract is in the record. Therefore, the School Board contends the trial court correctly concluded there were no genuine issues of material fact, and it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Here, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the School Board, reasoning that the Agreement covered all of the claims contemplated in RLS's lawsuit. The Agreement, entitled "Release of all claims for grounds maintenance work performed ...


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