State v. Redmann, NO. 19-CA-146

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Writing for the CourtMOLAISON, J.
Citation290 So.3d 270
Parties State of Louisiana, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES IN THE INTEREST OF E. R. and O. R. v. Kirk REDMANN
Docket NumberNO. 19-CA-146
Decision Date22 January 2020

290 So.3d 270

State of Louisiana, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES IN THE INTEREST OF E. R. and O. R.
v.
Kirk REDMANN

NO. 19-CA-146

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit.

January 22, 2020


COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES IN THE INTEREST OF E. R. AND O. R., Honorable Paul D. Connick, Jr., Metairie, Timothy P. O'Rourke.

COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, KIRK REDMANN, Michael A. Rosenblatt, New Orleans.

Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Jude G. Gravois, Stephen J. Windhorst, Hans J. Liljeberg, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

MOLAISON, J.

In this case, the State of Louisiana, Department of Social Services, through the Jefferson Parish District Attorney appeals the juvenile court judgment finding that Kirk Redmann has a credit of $6,216.14 and that a penalty provision in the 2002 consent judgment between Kirk Redmann and Helen Meyer Redmann is no longer in effect. For the following reasons, we reverse in part, amend in part, and render.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This is the second appeal to this Court by these parties, Helen Meyer Redmann ("Helen") and Kirk Redmann ("Kirk").1 According to the record before us, the parties agreed on a support award by Kirk in favor of Helen in which Kirk would pay 54% of specified expenses of the children, including premiums for their health insurance coverage.2 3

On January 12, 2006, the State of Louisiana, Department of Child and Family Services, through the District Attorney for the Parish of Jefferson ("DCFS"), began providing child support enforcement services to Helen at her request. At that point in 2006, jurisdiction over enforcement of the child support award was transferred from the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court to the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court.

Subsequently, on April 1, 2015, Kirk filed a motion seeking, among other things, a credit against Helen for her proportionate share of premiums for the children's health insurance coverage. In his motion, Kirk maintained that he had paid 100% of

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the children's health insurance premiums from September of 2007 through May 30, 2015, and pursuant to the original consent judgment, Helen owed him a credit of 46% of the children's health insurance premiums for that time period.4 After four hearings, the trial judge found that "Kirk's share of the expenses owed was $1,345, minus a $250 credit for each child, resulting in $845 owed to Helen." State, Dep't of Children and Family Services v. Redmann , 231 So.3d at 900. However, upon review, this Court found that, "[b]ased on the record before us, it is unclear what documents, if any, were actually admitted into evidence. Thus, it is impossible for us to ascertain from the record before us how the trial court reached its determination that Kirk owed Helen $1,345 and for what. Accordingly, we find it necessary to vacate that portion of the December 28, 2015 judgment and remand the matter for a new hearing." Id. at 902.

On remand from this Court, the parties appeared for an April 6, 2018 hearing on Kirk's claim for reimbursement against Helen for health insurance premiums. At that hearing, Kirk testified that his children were covered on his second ex-wife Terri Redmann's health insurance policy from September of 2007 through November of 2010.5 He introduced an email from Terri stating that the cost of his children's health insurance coverage was $165.00 per month. Kirk testified that he paid his "then spouse" Terri $165.00 per month from September of 2007 until September of 2010 for the premiums on his children's health insurance coverage. He also introduced fifteen cancelled checks to substantiate those payments.

At trial, DCFS objected to Kirk's documentation. In particular, DCFS questioned Kirk regarding the "actual breakdown of the cost of insurance" from the insurance provider, which Kirk admitted that he did not know. Kirk also admitted that he did not have documentation from the insurance provider of the actual cost of his children's health insurance premiums from September of 2007 through November of 2010.6

At the close of the hearing, with respect to premiums for the children's health insurance coverage paid by Kirk from September of 2007 through November of 2010, the trial judge found as follows:

Okay. So that's the end of what he needs to be reimbursed for. Okay. With regard to Mr. Redmann's claims, for the 165 a month for four months in 2007 through the 2010 which went through, I believe, September of 2010 because then it went up higher in October and November, the 165 a month, I am going to find that he did pay that insurance amount. He wrote checks to his ex-wife for that amount. There's some question
290 So.3d 274
about whether it should have been $30 a month or 165 a month, to me that comes down to whether Terri Redmann was overcharging him. That might be a fraud issue, but that doesn't – he paid it. I believe he paid it. I believe he paid it thinking it was for the children's insurance. If they somehow got ripped off, they both have a claim against Ms. Redmann at that point. But I do believe that the 165 a month should be the amount for those months. And then the last two months, October and November, he did pay the 232.50. I think his check stubs and what he did and his testimony is, indeed, that he did pay those amounts.

On appeal, DCFS raises three assignments of errors: first, as a matter of law, the trial court erred in interpreting insurance costs to mean the amounts the non-custodial parent paid to his "then spouse" Terri Redmann who maintained a health insurance policy through her employer, rather than the actual cost to the insured of the health insurance premiums for the minor children; second, the trial court erred in admitting and considering Terri's email to Kirk alleging the unsubstantiated cost of medical insurance over the objections of DCFS and Helen when Terri was not present to be cross-examined; and third, the trial court erred in refusing to consider the custodial parent's claim for penalties for delinquent payments as outlined in an August 26, 2003 consent judgment.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Standard of Review

In Evans v. Lungrin , 97-0541 (La. 2/6/98), 708 So.2d 731, 735, the Louisiana Supreme Court enunciated the standard of review in custody proceedings:

It is well-settled that a court of appeal may not set aside a trial court's ... finding of fact in the absence of ‘manifest error’ or unless it is ‘clearly wrong.’ Rosell v. Esco , 549 So. 2d 840, 844 (La. 1989). However, where one or more trial court legal errors interdict the fact-finding process, the manifest error standard is no longer applicable, and, if the record is otherwise complete, the appellate court should make its own independent de novo review of the record and determine a preponderance of the evidence. Ferrell v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. , 94-1252 (La. 2/20/95), 650 So.2d 742, 747, rev'd in part, on other grounds , 96-3028 (La. 7/1/97), 696 So. 2d 569, reh'g denied , 96-3028 (La. 9/19/97), 698 So.2d 1388. A legal error occurs when a trial court applies incorrect principles of law and such errors are prejudicial. See Lasha v. Olin Corp. , 625 So.2d 1002, 1006 (La. 1993). Legal errors are prejudicial when they materially affect the outcome and deprive a party of substantial rights. See Lasha, 625 So.2d at 1006. When such a prejudicial error of law skews the trial court's finding of a material issue of fact and causes it to pretermit other issues, the appellate court is required, if it can, to render judgment on the record by applying the correct law and determining the essential material facts de novo . Lasha, 625 So.2d at 1006.

Thus, where one or more trial court legal errors interdict the fact-finding process, this Court should make its own independent de novo review of the record and determine a preponderance of the evidence. Evans, supra . Because our review of this record reveals that the trial court committed legal error, we have made our own de novo review of the record.

Reimbursement

In their first and second assignments of error, DCFS argues that the trial court erred in giving Kirk a credit of $6,216.14 because the trial judge relied on an erroneous interpretation of the legal

290 So.3d 275

definition of "health insurance premium" as defined in La. R.S. 9:315(C)(4). We agree.

First, the question is whether Kirk can seek reimbursement. According to La. R.S. 9:315.8(D), "The party without legal custody or nondomiciliary party shall owe his or her total child support obligation as a money judgment of child...

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