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OSPRIN, LLC v. Sharon Stuart LEGGETT
Appellant seeks review of a judgment granting appellee's motion to redeem litigious rights. For the reasons that follow, we dismiss the appeal.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY 1
Osprin, LLC, as assignee of Capitol One, National Association, instituted this foreclosure action against Sharon Stuart Leggett after a company in which she was a member, Capital Ventures of LA, LLC, defaulted on a line of credit. To secure the debt, Ms. Leggett mortgaged certain immovable property in favor of the original lender.
Subsequently, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Osprin and against Ms. Leggett. The February 18, 2020 judgment awarded Osprin a total of $238,358.12 in principal, interest, and costs. The judgment also recognized the validity and enforceability of the mortgage on Ms. Leggett's property.
Ms. Leggett filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied. Ms. Leggett filed a motion for appeal on November 18, 2020. However, Ms. Leggett did not pay the appeal costs until the Clerk of Court issued a February 12, 2021 rule to show cause why her appeal should not be dismissed as abandoned. The appeal was lodged on June 15, 2021.
After Ms. Leggett's appeal was lodged, she filed a motion requesting this court remand the matter so the trial court could “hear her motion to redeem litigious rights.” Specifically, Ms. Leggett averred that “this matter and the judgment has been sold [by Osprin] to Ciras, Inc.” In support of her motion, Ms. Leggett attached copies of the November 19, 2020 and December 2, 2020 correspondence by which she was notified, as a member of Capital Ventures, that Ciras, Inc. (Ciras) had purchased the loan from Osprin. The attached correspondence further instructed Ms. Leggett to send loan payments to Ciras and indicated that the total amount Ms. Leggett owed was $301,343.29.
This court observed that the trial court was the appropriate forum to receive evidence and resolve issues regarding the alleged sale of a litigious right. Thus, this court remanded the matter to the trial court for the limited purpose of deciding whether the assignment from Osprin to Ciras constituted the sale of a litigious right, and, if so, the amount necessary for Ms. Leggett to redeem that right under LSA-C.C. art. 2652, which provides as follows:
When a litigious right is assigned, the debtor may extinguish his obligation by paying to the assignee the price the assignee paid for the assignment, with interest from the time of the assignment.
A right is litigious, for that purpose, when it is contested in a suit already filed.
Nevertheless, the debtor may not thus extinguish his obligation when the assignment has been made to a co-owner of the assigned right, or to a possessor of the thing subject to the litigious right.
Following remand, the appellate record was supplemented with a judgment dated March 23, 2022, granting Ms. Leggett's motion to redeem litigious rights and ordering the parties to “supplement the record with the price paid by Ciras, Inc. no later than March 17, 2022.” In light of the March 23, 2022 judgment, this court found the “appeal of the judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Osprin [was] moot.” Accordingly, the appeal from the trial court's February 18, 2020 judgment was dismissed. Osprin, LLC v. Leggett, 2021-0653 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/19/22), 342 So.3d 906, 908 (Osprin I).
Following this court's dismissal of the appeal of the trial court's February 18,2022 judgment, on May 27, 2022, Ciras, as successor-in-interest to Osprin, filed the present devolutive appeal seeking review of the March 23, 2022 judgment granting Ms. Leggett's motion to redeem litigious rights. On appeal, Ciras argues that Ms. Leggett waived her right to redeem the sale of litigious rights through inaction or substantial delay, specifically regarding the interim between the November 19, 2020 and December 2, 2020 letters notifying Ms. Leggett of Ciras's purchase of the loan and Ms. Leggett's July 9, 2021 request for remand for determination of her right to redeem the sale. On October 14, 2022, this court issued a rule noting that it did not appear that the March 23, 2022 judgment was a final judgment, and therefore, ordering the parties to show cause why the appeal should or should not be dismissed. On January 6, 2023, a panel of this court referred the rule to show cause to the panel to which the appeal was assigned.
Appellate courts have a duty to examine subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte, even when the parties do not raise the issue. This court's appellate jurisdiction extends to final judgments and to interlocutory judgments when expressly provided by law. See LSA-C.C.P. art. 2083. A judgment that determines the merits, in whole or in part, is a final judgment. LSA-C.C.P. art. 1841: see also LSA-C.C.P. art. 1915. A judgment that does not determine the merits, but only preliminary matters in the course of the action, is an interlocutory judgment. LSA-C.C.P. art. 1841. A valid judgment must be “precise, definite, and certain.” Moreover, a final appealable judgment must contain decretal language, and it must name the party in favor of whom the ruling is ordered, the party against whom the ruling is ordered, and the relief that is granted or denied. These determinations should be evident from the language of the judgment without reference to other documents in the record. McNeese v. F. L. Crane Construction, 2019-1393 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/14/20), 313 So.3d 442, 445.
In the present matter, the March 23, 2022 judgment at issue on appeal provides, in pertinent part:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED[,] AND DECREED that defendant Sharon Stuart Leggett's Motion to Redeem Litigious Rights is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED[,] AND DECREED that the parties shall supplement the record with the price paid by Ciras, Inc. no later than March 17, 2022.
As set forth above, this court previously issued a rule to show cause noting that it did not appear that the March 23, 2022 judgment was a final judgment, and the rule to show cause was referred to this panel. Upon our examination of the appellate record, we find that the March 23, 2022 judgment is not a valid final judgment. Consequently, this court lacks appellate jurisdiction.
The trial court's March 23, 2022 judgment ordered the parties to supplement the record with the price paid by Ciras. However, while the judgment indicates that Ms. Leggett is entitled to redeem the litigious right, it does not provide the price paid for the assignment for which the litigious right can be redeemed. As a result, the relief that was granted is not evident from the language of the judgment - and, in fact, cannot be determined from the record at all, as additional evidence is needed to determine the price for the redemption. Thus, the March 23, 2022 judgment is not final and appealable. See McNeese, 313 So.3d at 445.2 Moreover, the March 23, 2022 judgment failed to comply with the previous October 6, 2021 order of this court remanding the matter to the trial court “for the limited purpose of deciding whether the assignment from Osprin, LLC to Ciras, Inc. constitutes a sale of a litigious right and, if so, the amount necessary for Ms. Leggett to redeem that right under [LSA-C.C.] art. 2652.” Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.3
For the foregoing reasons, we dismiss the appeal of the March 23, 2022 judgment and remand to the trial court for proceedings consistent herein. Costs of the appeal are assessed against Osprin, LLC.
2. See also U.S. Bank National Association as Trustee for RFMSI 2005S7 v. Dumas, 2021-0585 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/22/21), 340 So.3d 246, 251, wherein this court stated:However, to the extent that the judgment requires additional action to be taken by the parties, including presentation of evidence to the district court, so that the district court may then quantify and award other additional damages that may be due (including, among other things, taxes, assessments, repairs to and maintenance of the property), the judgment at issue is not a final judgment for purposes of appeal until the district court sets those awards following its receipt and consideration of additional evidence.
3. Despite this court's discretionary powers, we cannot convert the appeal to a supervisory writ application given that the motion for appeal (filed May 27, 2022) was not filed within thirty days of the notice of judgment (issued March 25, 2022). See Succession of Jaga, 2016-1291 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/15/17), 227 So.3d 325, 328 n.2. Additionally, as a practical matter, it is impossible to know whether the March 23, 2022 judgment will terminate the litigation until such time as the price of the transfer is either determined or agreed upon and Ms. Leggett elects whether to release herself from liability by proceeding with the redemption of the litigious right. See Clement v. Sneed Bros., 238 La. 614, 116 So.2d 269, 272-73 (1959). Finally, we note that in Clement, 116 So.2d 269, cited by Ciras, the finality of the judgment on appeal was not at issue, and the procedural posture was markedly different from that of this matter. Thus, dismissal of the instant appeal is not inconsistent with Clement.
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Docket No: 2022 CA 1102
Decided: June 02, 2023
Court: Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit.
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