Recent Case Highlights Distinction Between Answers to Appeals and Cross-Appeals in Louisiana Civil Procedure
By Bradley C. Guin
In Sulak, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant. Id. at *2. The defendant timely perfected an appeal, but the plaintiff’s motion for appeal was untimely. Id. Despite this, the plaintiff argued that the court of appeal should treat her untimely cross-appeal as an answer to the defendant’s appeal, given that she filed the motion to appeal within the deadline for filing an answer to the appeal. Id.
The First Circuit, however, refused to construe the plaintiff’s motion for appeal as an answer to the appeal. To be valid, an answer to an appeal must state the relief demanded. Id. This differs from an appeal or cross-appeal, which entitles the appellant to raise all issues without specifying them in the motion or order of appeal. Id. The plaintiff’s motion included a blanket statement that she desired to appeal the final judgment; she did not specifically state the relief requested, as required by La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 2133 in an answer to the appeal. Id. Hence, her untimely motion for appeal could not be considered to be an answer to the defendant’s appeal, and the First Circuit dismissed her untimely cross-appeal. Id.
In short, an answer to an appeal has different procedural requirements than a cross-appeal. Practitioners should take note of those requirements to ensure that their appellate filings are not only valid but also timely to avoid the result reached in Sulak.