Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for
the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Nos.
C642674, Sec. 27 c/w C652673, Sec. 23 Honorable Todd
Hernandez, Judge Presiding
W. Stewart James H. Gibson Michael O. Adley Lafayette,
Louisiana Kenneth Henry Hooks Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel
for Defendant-in- Reconvention/ Appellee Dodson & Hooks,
L. Johnson Arthur R. Thomas Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel
for Plaintiff/Appellant Louisiana Community Development
Capital Fund, Inc.
Christopher M. Vitenas Henry Price Mounger, III Baton Rouge,
Louisiana and Brian Ballay New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for
Intervenor CB& I Government Solutions, Inc.
BEFORE; McCLENDON, WELCH, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.
suit for damages, the plaintiff challenges the judgment of
the trial court that granted the defendant's peremptory
exception raising the objection of no cause of action and
dismissed the plaintiff's principal demand with
prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 7, 2015, Dodson, Hooks, & Frederick, APLC (Dodson
& Hooks) and Louisiana Community Development Capital
Fund, Inc. (Capfund) entered into an attorney-client
contract. Pursuant to the contract, the parties agreed that
Dodson & Hooks would represent Capfund in Capfund's
lawsuit to recover payments due under a contract with
CB&I Government Solutions, Inc. (CB&I). The contract
also provided that, in consideration for services rendered,
Capfund agreed to pay Dodson & Hooks "[f]orty (40%)
percent of all amounts which may be recovered ... pursuant to
arbitration and/or litigation," in addition to
reimbursement for all costs related to the litigation. The
attorney-client contract also provided that Capfund granted a
special privilege to Dodson & Hooks for their
professional fees "on all money and property recovered
and/or obtained" for Capfund. The contract further
provided that neither Dodson & Hooks nor Capfund could
settle any claim commenced pursuant to the contract without
the consent of the other.
February 9, 2015, Dodson & Hooks filed an arbitration
proceeding with the American Arbitration Association on
behalf of Capfund against CB&I for the payment of
outstanding invoices in the amount of $280, 000.00. Shortly
prior to the arbitration hearing, on September 18, 2015,
CB&I paid Capfund directly the amount of $207, 934.91 for
the payment of invoices. Thereafter, Dodson & Hooks
requested payment of its costs and fees from Capfund. Capfund
failed to pay Dodson & Hooks, claiming that no attorney
fees were due to Dodson & Hooks from the payment from
CB&I to Capfund. Because of Capfund's refusal to pay,
Dodson & Hooks withdrew from its representation of
Capfund. Also, Dodson & Hooks sent a letter to
the American Arbitration Association, dated November 5, 2015,
requesting that a copy of its attorney/client contract with
Capfund be filed into the record of the arbitration
proceedings to assert its attorney fee lien.
November 17, 2015, after Dodson & Hooks's withdrawal
from its representation of Capfund, CB&I made an offer of
settlement to Capfund in the amount of $10, 000.00 in
exchange for a full release from Capfund and Dodson &
Hooks. Dodson & Hooks refused to release any claims it
had against Capfund for attorney fees and costs. Capfund and
CB&I were unable to reach a settlement of CB&I's
claims, which proceeded to arbitration. CB&I succeeded on
its claim and was awarded $83, 156.82 against Capfund.
Dodson & Hooks filed a separate arbitration claim for
attorney fees and costs against Capfund, asserting that the
$207, 934.91 payment by CB&I to Capfund constituted
payment on the demand asserted against CB&I in the first
arbitration proceeding for unpaid and outstanding invoices.
Dodson & Hooks further represented that on payment of the
$207, 934.91 amount to Capfund, it sent a settlement
statement to Capfund with the calculation of fees and costs
owed, in the amount of $98, 705.24, and requested payment of
same. Dodson & Hooks alleged that Capfund refused to pay
any of the costs and fees owed. Accordingly, Dodson &
Hooks asserted its security interest for $98, 705.24 of the
funds paid by CB&I to Capfund.
response to the second arbitration proceeding, Capfund filed
a counterclaim for damages against Dodson & Hooks
asserting that Dodson & Hooks wrongfully failed to
consent to CB&I's settlement offer in the first
arbitration proceeding. Ultimately, the arbitrator dismissed
Capfund's counterclaim, finding that the agreement
between Dodson & Hooks and Capfund clearly required that
"both client and law firm consent to any
settlement" with CB&I and that Dodson & Hooks
could not be "held at fault" for declining to agree
to a settlement reached by CB&I and Capfund.
District Court Proceedings
September 30, 2015, Dodson & Hooks filed a Petition to
Enforce Contract, for Damages and for Writ of Sequestration
against Capfund in the 19th Judicial District Court, seeking
the $98, 705.24 amount for fees and expenses. On November 4,
2016, Capfund filed its own Petition for Damages against
Dodson & Hooks for the "wrongful and unlawful filing
of a lien by the defendant in an arbitration proceeding in
which defendant was not a party." Capfund attached nine
exhibits to its petition, including a copy of the
attorney-client contract. On motion of Capfund, the cases were
consolidated on May 22, 2017.
response to Capfund's lawsuit, Dodson & Hooks filed a
peremptory exception raising the objection of no cause of
action. The trial court granted the exception of
no cause of action, but allowed Capfund to amend its petition
to state a valid cause of action against Dodson & Hooks.
In sustaining the exception, the trial court held:
[T]he law fails to provide a cause of action or remedy
against [Dodson & Hooks] as asserted in the petition for
damages filed by [Capfund]. [Capfund's] petition asserts
that [its] cause of action arises out of [Dodson &
Hooks'] unlawful and/or wrongful filing of a lien in the
arbitration proceeding and that this conduct prevented a
favorable settlement. The law specifically authorized [Dodson
& Hooks] to pursue ...