NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal on April 6 denied the state Department of Economic Development’s appeal to change court venues in its lawsuit with a film company.
The three-judge panel for the case was comprised of Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods, who wrote the order, and Judges Roland L. Belsome and Rosemary Ledet.
The Louisiana Department of Economic Development had filed a motion with the appellate court after a trial court denied its exceptions of “improper cumulation of claims and venue,” according to information in the ruling. The department is a defendant in a lawsuit with film company Element Pictures LLC. The appeals court affirmed the trial court decision to deny the department's writ for exceptions because “[i]t would be judicially inefficient to require these interrelated claims to be tried in separate venues.”
The Department of Economic Development and the Louisiana Institute of Film Technology signed a multiparty certification agreement in 2004 to work out how the institute would be paid tax credits for movie production expenses in Louisiana. In 2015, Element entered into a production agreement with Louisiana Institute of Film Technology “to be recognized as a third-party beneficiary or Investment company under the MPCA between LIFT and LED," according to background information in the ruling.
The Department of Economic Development and the Louisiana Institute of Film Technology went to into arbitration that found in the institute's favor. Both agreed to a settlement and terminated the multiparty certification agreement. In 2015, Element filed a petition for damages against the Louisiana Institute of Film Technology alleging breach of contract and performance, and amended the complaint to add LED as a defendant.
Element’s complaint stated that because the department “improperly terminated the MPCA” over Element’s objections, Element lost “rights and claims to tax credits available under the MPCA.”
The Department of Economic Development claimed in its writ for exception that proper venue is East Baton Rouge because the termination of the multiparty agreement happened in East Baton Rouge and that “there was no community of interest between Element’s claim against LIFT for breach of the Production Agreement and Element’s claim against LED for improper termination of the MPCA," according to background information in the ruling.
Element argued that the agreement required proper venue to be Orleans Parish and said “its claims against LIFT and LED present a significant community of interest, rights, and facts” as the companies are jointly liable. Element said in its complaint that New Orleans District Court is the appropriate venue “for LIFT and the State/LED as joint and solidary obligors.”
Bartholomew-Woods wrote that “[t]here is no common venue," noting that although the proper venue for the department would be East Baton Rouge Parish, Element is correct in stating that there is “no basis to maintain venue in East Baton Rouge Parish solely for Element’s claims against LIFT.”
Bartholomew-Woods concluded, citing other cases, that the appeals court affirmed the trial court decision and noted that court precedent dictates when a “community of interest is present between different actions or parties,” it is “commonsensical to litigate them together.”