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Stevens Construction & Design, L.L.C. v. St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

January 16, 2020

STEVENS CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN, L.L.C.
v.
ST. TAMMANY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT NO. 1

          Appealed from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Docket Number 2018-14143 Honorable Martin E. Coady, Judge Presiding.

          Charles K. Chauvin Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Destrehan, LA Stevens Construction & Design, L.L.C.

          Troy G. Ingram Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Slidell, LA St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1.

          Albert Dale Clary Counsel for Intervenor/Appellee Adrian G. Nadeau Domain Architecture, APAC, J. Weston Clark Greenleaf Lawson Architects, Baton Rouge, LA APAC, and Domain Architecture Greenleaf Baton Rouge, Architects, A Joint Venture.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., GUIDRY, McDONALD, McCLENDON, WELCH, HIGGINBOTHAM, CRAIN THERIOT, HOLDRIDGE, CHUTZ, PENZATO, AND LANIER, JJ.

          WHIPPLE, C.J.

         Plaintiff, Stevens Construction & Design, L.L.C., appeals a judgment of the district court denying its petition for a preliminary injunction. For the following reasons, we dismiss the appeal and decline to consider the related writ applications, 2018 CW 1759 and 2019 CW 0642, which were referred to the merits panel for consideration, as untimely.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 11, 2017, Stevens Construction & Design, L.L.C. (Stevens Construction) entered into a contract with the St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1 (Fire District), wherein Stevens Construction would serve as the general contractor for the construction of a new fire station and headquarters building located at 522 Robert Boulevard and 530 Robert Boulevard in Slidell, Louisiana for a total sum of $2, 845, 678.00. The architect for the project was a joint venture between two architectural firms, Domain Architecture, APAC and Greenleaf Lawson Architects, APAC (the Architect). The contract provided for completion of the project in 365 calendar days. Construction work on the project began on June 1, 2017, pursuant to a "notice to commence work" issued by the Fire District. An additional 47 calendar days were added to the contract's completion date pursuant to approved change orders.

         On July 19, 2018, the Architect sent a letter to Stevens Construction, notifying it that the contractual date for substantial completion, July 18, 2018, had passed and requesting that Stevens Construction provide a "realistic completion plan by Monday, July 23." Stevens Construction, through owner Adam Stevens, responded on July 23, 2018, with a "scheduled contractual completion response," which proposed that the project would be substantially complete by September 14, 2018. On July 27, 2018, Fire Chief Chris Kaufmann issued a letter to Stevens Construction and its surety by electronic and certified mail to the addresses listed in the contract, notifying them that the Fire District was considering declaring Stevens Construction in default under the contract and requesting a meeting with Stevens Construction and its surety within ten days. Counsel for Stevens Construction responded on August 6, 2018, agreeing to a meeting. Subsequently, the Architect outlined various concerns with the project in a letter dated August 15, 2018, which was sent to Stevens Construction, its surety, and the Fire District. On August 22, 2018, Chief Kaufmann sent a letter to Stevens Construction and its surety by electronic and certified mail, summarizing his concerns with Stevens Construction's performance on the project and directing Stevens Construction to stop work on the project by 4:00 p.m. on August 23, 2018.

         On August 23, 2018, Stevens Construction filed a verified petition for temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction, and writ of mandamus. Pertinent to this appeal, Stevens Construction alleged that the Fire District had invalidly issued a stop work order with the purported intent to terminate Stevens Construction from the project; therefore, Stevens Construction was seeking a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief to prohibit the Fire District's purportedly invalid actions. On August 24, 2018, the district court signed a temporary restraining order, enjoining the Fire District from taking any further action to enforce the subject stop work order or otherwise bar Stevens Construction from continuing to complete its work on the project. That same day, the Architect issued a certification in its role as the initial decision maker under the General Conditions of the contract, providing reasons why sufficient cause existed for terminating Stevens Construction under the terms of the contract. After receiving the certification-of-cause letter from the Architect, the Fire District issued a letter to Stevens Construction and its surety, dated August 24, 2018, via electronic and certified mail, providing seven days written notice prior to the Fire District's termination for cause of Stevens Construction. On September 4, 2018, the Fire District issued a Notice of Termination to Stevens Construction and its surety by both electronic and certified mail, citing Articles 14.2.1. and 14.2.2 of the General Conditions and Article 3.10.3 of the Supplementary Conditions of the contract, detailing the reasons the Fire District found sufficient cause for terminating Stevens Construction and attaching the Architect's certification.

         The district court held a hearing on the preliminary injunction on September 4 and 6, 2018.[1] Following the hearing, wherein the court heard testimony and received evidence, the district court took the matter under advisement. On September 13, 2018, the district court issued its reasons for judgment, finding that in the time between the issuance of the temporary restraining order and the hearing on the preliminary injunction, the Fire District had complied with the terms of the contract between it and Stevens Construction in order to terminate Stevens Construction. Accordingly, the district court found that Stevens Construction's request for a preliminary injunction should be denied, and that its temporary restraining order should likewise be dissolved. The district court instructed counsel for the Fire District to submit a judgment reflecting the court's ruling.

         A judgment submitted by the Fire District was signed by the district court, with a date of September 20, 2018.[2] On October 4, 2018, Stevens Construction filed a motion for new trial from the district court's September 20, 2018 judgment denying its request for preliminary injunction and dissolving its temporary restraining order. The following day, the district court signed a rule ordering the Fire District and Architect to show cause as to why Stevens Construction's motion should not be granted. The district court specifically wrote on the order that the "hearing is limited in scope only to reconsideration of plaintiffs objection raised regarding the language of the September 20, 2018 judgment and will be limited to oral arguments only." On October 10, 2018, Stevens Construction filed a motion and order for suspensive appeal from the September 20, 2018 judgment, which was denied by the district court.

         On November 2, 2018, the district court signed a judgment purporting to "correct and amend" the September 20, 2018 judgment. However, the district court's ruling on the preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order remained unchanged. On November 14, 2018, Stevens Construction filed an amended and supplemental motion for ...


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