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Louisiana Court Remands Case When Trial Court Failed to Use “Decretal” Language Making Judgment Valid and Enforceable

A case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal addressed what makes a trial court judgment a valid, final judgment under Louisiana law.  In order to appeal a judgment, the court stated that there must be specific “decretal” language in the judgment, setting forth the names of the parties, in addition to other details.  Not only does this ensure that the judgment can be enforced, but also it avoids rendering a defective judgment.

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Michelle O’Regan was driving a vehicle, and Christine Caminita was in the front passenger seat.  Their vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Laura Cashio.  Ms. Caminita and Ms. O’Regan filed a petition for damages against Ms. Cashio and her insurance company, USAA Casualty Insurance.  Ms. Caminita and Ms. O’Regan also asserted claims against Ms. O’Regan’s insurer, State Farm Insurance, and against Ms. Caminita’s insurer, General Insurance Company of America.

Ms. O’Regan’s claims against Ms. Cashio and USAA were dismissed.  Ms. Caminita’s claims against Ms. Cashio, USAA, and General Insurance Company of America then went to a three-day trial.  State Farm did not appear at trial.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Caminita, and the trial court signed a judgment.

The judgment stated that the trial took place on September 8-10, 2014.  It stated that 12 people heard the evidence, arguments of counsel, and instructions of the court.  They then returned the instructions and rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Christine Caminita, against the defendants, in the amount of $3,719.20.

Ms. Caminita then filed a motion for an order of dismissal with prejudice regarding her claim against State Farm. She also filed a motion for a new trial.  The motion for a new trial was denied, and she appealed the judgment.

The appellate court stated the rule that after a trial by jury, Louisiana law requires that a final, appealable judgment contain “decretal language,” which names the party against whom the ruling has been ordered. The court stated that here, the “judgment” on appeal lacked sufficient language.  It did not identify the defendants against whom judgment was rendered.  This particular case involves multiple defendants, and the failure to name those defendants makes the “judgment” fatally defective. It cannot be discerned from its face against whom the judgment may be enforced.

In conclusion, the court held that the trial court “judgment” was not a valid, final judgment.  Therefore, the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of Ms. Caminita’s appeal.  Ms. Caminita had filed a motion for a new trial regarding the judgment.  Since this motion was based upon an invalid judgment, the trial court’s denial of her motion had no legal effect. The appellate court dismissed the appeal without prejudice and remanded the matter to the trial court so that a proper final judgment can be rendered.

The attorneys at Lavis Law have years of experience negotiating and litigating automobile insurance cases.  We provide a free consultation and can be reached by calling 866.558.9151.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Court Affirms Judgment in Favor of Car Accident Victim Receiving Maximum Coverage From Insurance Company, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, November 24, 2015

Louisiana Court Affirms Judgment in Favor of Insurance Company When Lawsuit for Damages Filed Beyond Time Period, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, November 3, 2015

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