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La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1804 provides that among solidary obligors, each is liable for his virile portion and that when the obligation arises from an offense or quasi-offense, a virile portion is proportionate to the fault of each obligor. Louisiana courts have long recognized that when a plaintiff settles with and releases one of several joint tort-feasors, he deprives the remaining obligors of the right to contribution against the obligor who was released. A plaintiff's settlement with one solidary obligor reduces his recovery against the remaining obligors by the percentage of the proportionate fault of the obligor who was released. The amount the plaintiff received in settlement is irrelevant to the calculation of the amount of the reduction.
On October 2, 1991, judgment was rendered in favor of James Clint Soileau against Troy Ardoin and Kevin Bourgeois, jointly, severally, and in solido, in the amount of $ 8,165.17 together with legal interest and costs of court for an intentional battery committed upon Soileau by Ardoin and Bourgeois. The trial court found that Ardoin was eighty percent at fault and Bourgeois was twenty percent at fault in causing Soileau's injuries. The judgment was ultimately reduced to writing and signed by the trial court on August 21, 1992. On April 15, 1993, Soileau executed a document entitled "PARTIAL RELEASE OF JUDGMENT," wherein he released Ardoin from the judgment signed on August 21, 1992, in exchange for payment by Ardoin of the sum of $ 4,929.65, representing approximately one-half payment of the principle and interest on the damage award, and $ 1,325.53, representing one-half of the costs of court. In the partial release, Soileau authorized the Clerk of Court for the Parish of Evangeline to cancel the general mortgage in his favor and against Ardoin, resulting from the judgment of August 21, 1992, reserving "any and all rights he has against the solidary obligor, KEVIN BOURGEOIS."
On July 1, 1994, Bourgeois filed a Rule to Show Cause why the judgment against him should not be canceled. In his rule, Bourgeois claimed that he had paid his share of the judgment. A hearing on this rule was held on September 7, 1994, wherein Soileau acknowledged that he had released Ardoin for the payments previously mentioned and that Bourgeois had paid him a total of $ 2,500.00. At the hearing, the trial court concluded that Bourgeois owed the balance on the judgment. On July 25, 1996, Bourgeois filed a second Rule to Show Cause, asserting that because of Soileau's compromise agreement with Ardoin, he was no longer obligated for the entire judgment and was obligated for only his twenty percent fault. Bourgeois alleged that he had paid $ 2,500.00 on his obligation and that the balance should be set at $ 674.58, although Soileau had given him a payoff figure of $ 7,256.46. On August 14, 1996, Judge Preston N. Aucoin, who had been the presiding judge in the prior rule to show cause, recused himself and transferred the case to the other division of the Thirteenth Judicial District, which was presided over by Judge A. Gaynor Soileau. Bourgeois’ attorney filed multiple letters asking for the reconsideration of the matter. He also filed a Motion for New Trial, urging the same argument as urged in the letter of August 30, 1996. That Motion for New Trial was denied by Judge Soileau, without hearing. Despite having recused himself, Judge Aucoin conducted another hearing on October 15, 1996, wherein the issue was the form of a judgment associated with the hearing in September of 1994. At that hearing, Judge Aucoin rejected Bourgeois's suggested judgment and stated that he would execute one supplied by Soileau. The effect of this judgment was to find that Bourgeois was still liable for the remaining balance on the judgment signed on August 21, 1992.
Is Kevin Bourgeois responsible to Soileau for ½ of the judgment?
The trial court found that since Bourgeois and Ardoin were solidarily liable as intentional tort-feasors under La. Civ. Code art. 2324(A), rather than as negligent tort-feasors, and were therefore each liable for the whole performance of the obligation, the remission of the debt in favor of Ardoin released Bourgeois to the extent of the portion paid by Ardoin in settlement, rather than to the extent of the fault attributed to Ardoin. La. Civ. Code art. 2324(A) provides that "he who conspires with another person to commit an intentional or willful act is answerable, in solido, with that person, for the damage caused by such act." Additionally, La. Civ. Code art. 1803 provides in part that the "remission of debt by the obligee in favor of one obligor, or a transaction or compromise between the obligee and one obligor, benefits the other solidary obligors in the amount of the portion of that obligor." Nothing in La. Civ. Code art. 1803 makes a distinction between solidary liability arising out of an intentional tort and solidary liability arising out of a negligent tort. Indeed, solidary liability may arise from a variety of sources, and La. Civ. Code art. 1797 provides that an obligation may be solidary even if it derives from a different source for each obligor. The coextensiveness of the obligations for the same debt, not the source of liability, determines the solidarity of the obligation. Clearly, by the express provision in La. Civ. Code art. 2324(A), tort-feasors who conspire to commit an intentional tort are solidarily liable. However, it appears that Acts 1996, 1st Ex.Sess., No. 3, § 1, effective April 16, 1996, amended La. Civ. Code art. 2324(B) to do away with solidary liability among negligent tort-feasors. Therefore, it would appear that La. Civ. Code art. 1803 is not even applicable to negligent tort-feasors anymore. Therefore, it was error to hold that Bourgeois was responsible for the unpaid portion of the debt, or one-half of the debt, rather than for his percentage of the proportionate fault, or twenty percent of the debt.