Oral arg. – COA – Feb. 4, 2016

At 10:00 the COA will hear Beth Donaldson v. Dominic Ovella.  

In 2009, Dominic Ovella, a Louisiana construction lawyer contracted with B & C Construction and Equipment, LLC to construct a water-front vacation home in Pass Christian.  The price was  $559,000.  After construction began, Ovella changed the plans and used up all the money he had for the house.  He managed to convince  B & C to keep working by making repeated promises he would soon pay all that was owed.  The Ovellas moved in in May 2009 and complained he could feel the  house sway in high winds so B & C installed bracing under the house.

Ovella ended up suing the owners and officers of B & C and B&C.    The district court granted the motions by the owners and officers (the Donaldsons) to dismiss.  The jury returned a take nothing judgment on all claims against the company.   The district court also denied B & C’s and the Donaldsons’ motion for sanctions.  Ovella did not appeal.

On November 13, 2012, each of the Donaldsons sued Ovella for malicious prosecution seeking to recover attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred from defending the Ovella lawsuit and for other harms.  The trial court granted summary judgment for Ovella finding that because the district court denied the Donaldsons’ motion for sanctions in the federal case, the claim was barred by judicial estoppel and res judicata.  The Donaldsons appealed.

The Donaldsons’ brief

Ovella’s brief

The Donaldson’s reply brief

Watch the argument here. 

This week I haven’t been able to watch the COA arguments on my computer – only on my phone.  Anyone else having this problem?

Ovella’s attorney admits that  the individual claims against Beth were premised only on the fact she was a member of the LLC.  He also argues that you can always sue an individual member of an LLC because you might be able to prove down the line that the corporation was not a valid corporation.  Justice Barnes is, not surprisingly, having a hard time with this argument.

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