Ryan v. Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, 20-149

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Writing for the CourtSAUNDERS, Judge.
Citation307 So.3d 1173
Parties Stacey A. RYAN, et al. v. CALCASIEU PARISH POLICE JURY, et al.
Decision Date18 November 2020
Docket Number20-149

307 So.3d 1173

Stacey A. RYAN, et al.
v.
CALCASIEU PARISH POLICE JURY, et al.

20-149

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit.

November 18, 2020


Terrence D. McCay, Kean Miller LLP, One Lakeshore Drive, Suite 1150, Lake Charles, LA 70629, (337) 430-0350, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Sasol Chemicals (USA), LLC

Gregory M. Anding, Erin L. Kilgore, Erich P. Rapp, Troy J. Charpentier, Kean Miller LLP, P. O. Box 3513, Baton Rouge, LA 70821, (225) 387-0999, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Sasol Chemicals (USA), LLC

Russell J. Stutes, Jr., Stutes & Lavergne, LLC, 600 Broad Street, Lake Charles, LA 70601, (337) 433-0022 COUNSEL FOR INTERVENORS/APPELLEES: Carla Meyers, Vernon C. Meyer

Richard E. Wilson, Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, 723 Broad Street, Lake Charles, LA 70601, (337) 436-6611 COUNSEL FOR INTERVENORS/APPELLEES: Carla Meyers, Vernon C. Meyer

Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R. Cooks, and John D. Saunders, Judges.

SAUNDERS, Judge.

This case involves an appeal from a contempt of court proceeding wherein the trial court found that a servient estate,

307 So.3d 1176

under La.Code Civ.P. art. 224(2), "intentionally, knowingly, and purposefully, without justifiable excuse" violated a consent judgment it entered into with a dominant estate. The consent judgment granted the dominant estate a servitude to access its lands through a certain location located on the servient estate's property. The trial court found that the servient estate prevented the dominant estate from exercising its servitude 239 separate instances and fined the servient estate $500.00 for each of those violations under La.R.S. 13:4611 totaling of $119,500.00. Additionally, the trial court awarded the dominant estate $32,715.00 in attorney's fees for work done at the trial level.

Before us is the servient estate's suspensive appeal of the trial court's judgment. Additionally, the dominant estate has requested attorney's fees for work done on this appeal.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

On October 5, 2016, Vernon Christopher Meyer and Carla Michelle Meyer (the Meyers) filed a second supplemental and amending petition seeking an injunction against Sasol Chemicals USA, LLC (Sasol). The Meyers sought an injunction that required Sasol to remove all impediments, restore convenient access, reconnect telephone lines, and restore basic services to the Meyers property per the Matheson Servitudes (the servitude) in favor of the Meyers along Matheson Road in Calcasieu Parish.

The Meyers asserted that the servitude provided them access to Houston River Road and that by erecting a security checkpoint referred to as Gate 5 on the corner of Matheson Road and Houston River Road, Sasol interfered with their use of the servitude. Prior to a hearing on the matter, the Meyers and Sasol memorialized an agreement between them by a consent judgment dated November 28, 2017. Relevant to Gate 5, the access point at issue in this case, the consent judgment states, "IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that once Matheson road is reopened, the Meyers, their family members, customers, vendors and guests agree that Gate 5 will be the exclusive point of ingress and egress to the Property and further will cease use of Gate 4." Thereafter, Matheson Road reopened and the Meyers used Gate 5 exclusively.

According to Sasol, after the consent judgment was confected, circumstances evolved. According to Sasol, it would be forced to encounter an "emergency" should the Meyers continue to use Gate 5. This "emergency," according to Sasol, triggered a provision in the consent judgment where Sasol could "block, restrict, impede or reduce access" to Gate 5 "in the case of a safety, health or security emergency."

This "emergency" of Sasol's was a "security emergency" according to the testimony of its senior manager of occupational safety and security, Scott Tyler. That "security emergency" is that Sasol could no longer comply with both the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) 6 CFR § 27.100, et seq . and the consent judgment's requirement of allowing the Meyers access through Gate 5. Sasol's planned commissioning and start-up activities triggered obligations under CFATS that required Sasol to secure its perimeter against private vehicles and other individuals who are not under Sasol's employ or contractual control. Such individuals not under Sasol's control include the Meyers and their guests.

Based on these alleged changes in circumstances, on November 7, 2018, Sasol sent correspondence to the Meyers that "Matheson Road and Gate 5 will have to be temporarily closed" starting December

307 So.3d 1177

7, 2018. Further, Sasol advised that it would relocate the Matheson Servitudes under La.Civ.Code art. 748 to run through Gate 4.

On November 9, 2018, just two days after receiving notice of Sasol's intent, the Meyers filed a rule for contempt by Sasol of their consent judgment. The matter was set for a hearing on November 16, 2018. On November 15, 2018, a day before the rule was to be heard, Sasol removed the case to federal court, after which it was then remanded to state court.

While the matter was in litigation, on May 30, 2019, Sasol began preventing the Meyers from using Gate 5 and, instead, rerouted them to Gate 4. Following this decision by Sasol, the Meyers and their guests were denied use of Gate 5 a total of 293 separate, documented instances.

On November 6, 2019, a hearing was held on the Meyers’ rule for contempt. The trial court found that because Sasol was aware of CFATS regulations prior to agreeing to the consent judgment with the Meyers, its rerouting from Gate 5 to Gate 4 was a willful violation of the consent judgment without justification. Further, the trial court found each of Sasol's denials were 293 separate and distinct contemptuous, willful violations of the consent judgment. As such, the trial court fined Sasol $500.00 for each separate instance for a total of $119,500.00. Additionally, the trial court awarded the Meyers $32,715.00 in attorney's fees.

Sasol has appealed this judgment of the trial court suspensively. That appeal is now before this court wherein Sasol asserts two assignments of error. The Meyers have answered Sasol's appeal and requested additional attorney's fees for work done on appeal.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR:

1. The Trial Court manifestly erred in holding Sasol in contempt of court because Sasol did not willfully violate the parties’ November 28, 2017 Consent Judgment.

2. The Trial Court manifestly erred in finding each instance of redirection by Sasol to the Meyers’ property, in accordance with the Consent Judgment, was a separate and distinctly punishable violation of the Consent Judgment.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR NUMBER ONE:

In its first assignment of error, Sasol argues that the trial court erred in holding it in contempt of court because it did not willfully violate the parties’ November 28, 2017 Consent Judgment. We disagree.

"The trial court has vast discretion in determining whether a party should be held in contempt for disobeying a court order, and its decision will be reversed only when the appellate court discerns an abuse of that discretion." Harley-Davidson Credit Corp. v. Davis , 13-214, p. 7 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/6/13), 127 So.3d 50, 55 (citing McDonald v. McDonald , 08-1165 (La.App. 3 Cir. 3/4/09), 10 So.3d 780 ).

"A contempt of court is any act or omission tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice, or to impair the dignity of the court or respect for its authority. Contempts of court are of two kinds, direct and constructive." La.Code Civ.P. art. 221.

In this case, the trial court found Sasol was in constructive contempt of the consent judgment between Sasol and the Meyers. Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 224(2) defines a constructive contempt of court, stating, "[a] constructive contempt of court is any contempt other

307 So.3d 1178

than a direct one. Any of the following acts constitutes a constructive contempt of court: ...(2) Wilful disobedience of any lawful judgment, order, mandate, writ, or process of the court."

Although a district court has discretion to determine whether to find a person guilty of constructive contempt of court, a finding that a person wilfully disobeyed a court order in violation of La.Code of Civil Proc. art. 224(2) must be based on a finding that the accused violated an order of the court "intentionally, knowingly, and purposefully, without justifiable excuse."

Lang v. Asten, Inc. , 05-1119, p. 1 (La. 1/13/06), 918 So.2d 453, 454 (citing Brunet v. Magnolia Quarterboats, Inc ., 97-187 (La.App. 5 Cir. 3/11/98), 711 So.2d 308, writ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 practice notes
  • State v. Bessard, 20-084
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • November 18, 2020
    ...signed by the judge but not the parties, states Defendant is to pay a supervision fee "in the approximate amount of $60.00 per month."307 So.3d 1173 Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 895(A) requires the court to impose a supervision fee to defray the costs of probation supervisio......
1 cases
  • State v. Bessard, 20-084
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • November 18, 2020
    ...signed by the judge but not the parties, states Defendant is to pay a supervision fee "in the approximate amount of $60.00 per month."307 So.3d 1173 Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 895(A) requires the court to impose a supervision fee to defray the costs of probation supervisio......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT