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State, Department of Transportation & Development v. Clark

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 15, 2020

STATE OF LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & DEVELOPMENT Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LARRY E. CLARK, ET UX Defendant-Appellant STATE OF LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & DEVELOPMENT Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LARRY E. CLARK, ET UX Defendant-Appellant STATE OF LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & DEVELOPMENT Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LARRY E. CLARK, ET UX Defendant-Appellant L & M H AIR CARE PRODUCTS, INC. Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & DEVELOPMENT Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court Nos. 325511, 325512, 328772 and 363679, Honorable Ramon Lafitte, Judge.

          LARRY E. CLARK Appellant In Proper Person.

          CHARLES DAVID McBRIDE, ANDREW GATES BARRY, TERRENCE J. DONAHUE, JR., Counsel for Appellee.

          Before STEPHENS, McCALLUM, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          McCALLUM, J.

         In 1986, Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Berlin Wall separated East Berlin from West Berlin, rotary dial telephones were still in common usage, and the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Transportation and Development, began expropriation proceedings against Larry E. Clark and his wife as the owners of three lots of land in Shreveport, Louisiana, needed for construction of I-49. President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher have passed away, the Berlin Wall has long since fallen, and rotary dial telephones are extinct as practical options for communication. However, the litigation born of the State's expropriation of the Clarks' property lives on.

         Before us is a pro se appeal by Larry E. Clark and his wife (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Clark"), challenging three judgments. The appellee is the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Transportation and Development ("the State"). Clark and their corporation, L & M Hair Care Products, Inc. ("L&M"), are seeking nullification of a previous joint stipulation agreement and judgments dating back to the distant origins of this matter. Clark argues that the trial court erred when it granted a peremptory exception of res judicata and dismissed the petitions to nullify. Clark argues that the court thereafter erred in denying a motion for new trial. Clark finally argues that the court erred when it denied relief in relation to Clark's ex parte motion. In that ex parte motion, Clark asked the trial court to order the State to refile and start afresh the expropriations. As detailed below, Clark asks this Court to reverse the trial court, nullify the joint stipulation agreement, and allow continued progress to attempt to nullify and overturn the sundry decisions made during the preceding three decades.

         We note that Clark has filed his brief pro se. One of the consolidated cases in this matter, however, involves L&M, not Clark. Although we have concerns as to the legal capacity of Clark to represent or argue on behalf of L&M, we will liberally construe the Clark briefs and appeals. Therefore, we will address all issues regarding Clark and L&M, including the constitutional and federal civil rights arguments made by Clark. For the reasons given below, we affirm the trial court on all issues.

         HISTORY

         This case has its origins in three separate expropriation proceedings commenced by the State of Louisiana nearly three and a half decades ago. In 1986, the State sought to expropriate land from Clark for the construction of I-49. The three suits were consolidated and set for trial. Prior to trial, Clark and the State entered into a joint stipulated agreement. That agreement resolved the issue regarding the taking of the three lots of land and preserved only one issue for trial, the amount of compensation for the relocation and loss of the uniqueness of the L&M location. L&M was a lessee of a building that existed on the property.

         The trial court found that Clark was entitled to compensation for the loss. The trial court awarded Clark an additional $191, 781.00 above the stipulated agreement, plus other costs. It signed a judgment in accordance with its ruling.

         The State appealed that decision. This Court found in favor of the State, reduced the total award, and reversed the portion of the award related to L&M. This Court held that because L&M was not a party to the suit, the award for costs and losses associated with L&M was improper. Subsequently, L&M filed separately to recover its damages.

         In that succeeding suit, the trial court awarded L&M the same amount as it had in the previous ruling that had been reversed by this Court. The State again appealed. However, before it was submitted, L&M and the State reached an agreement to vacate the trial court ruling, withdraw the appeal and remand the case to the trial court to reconsider the issue anew. This Court allowed the agreement, rescinded the judgment and remanded.

         Thereafter, L&M amended its petition to include new allegations and claims against the State. For the new claims, the State filed an exception of res judicata. The trial court ruled in favor of the State, dismissed the new claims, and set the remaining, original issue for trial. Prior to trial, Clark directed counsel for L&M not to comply with the trial court's order to file a pretrial order.

         On the day of the trial, Clark maintained his directive to his lawyers. With no pretrial order filed, Clark's refusal to move forward with the trial, and after multiple warnings given by the judge, the trial court dismissed all of L&M's claims with prejudice. We note that Clark even stated that he was okay with the trial court dismissing his claims. On appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court. L&M did not appeal that opinion.

         Clark and L&M then started filing multiple suits, as detailed below, in various state and federal courts. Those decisions ultimately led to a clear and lengthy history of adverse outcomes for Clark and L&M. Those cases reinforce our position that the trial court was correct in determining that res judicata precludes Clark and L&M's ...


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