Sale of Port Arthur restaurant results in litigation between former partners

Kelly Holleran Apr. 11, 2011, 7:42am

A Port Arthur woman claims her former romantic partner swindled her out of hundreds of thousands of dollars she should have earned from the sale of a co-operated business.

Holly Denise Wilson filed a lawsuit March 28 in Jefferson County District Court against Patrick John Lebouef.

Wilson claims she and Lebouef have known each other for years, since he began working at her father's convenience store on Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur in 1984. Later, Wilson's father turned the store into a restaurant, The Boudain Hut, and Wilson and Lebouf took over her father's restaurant in 1988.

When they joined as partners to run the restaurant, Wilson and Lebouef agreed that Wilson would manage the day-to-day operation of the bar and restaurant while Lebouef would manage the business aspect.

According to the lawsuit, Wilson was to earn a salary and split the company's end-of-the-year profits with Lebouef.

In 1992, The Boudain Hut was named as the defendant in a lawsuit, and Wilson claims Lebouef encouraged Wilson to remove her name from business papers to protect her from liability if the restaurant was ever sued again. Wilson agreed to Lebouef's recommendation and continued to work as his partner for 18 years, the complaint says.

In 2000, Lebouef sought Wilson's permission to sell The Boudain Hut, but failed to put it on the market until 2009, Wilson claims.

Just before Lebouef placed the restaurant on the market, Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to her health, Wilson claims she told Lebouef she could no longer work the 14- to 15-hour days, seven days a week as she had been.

In addition, Wilson decided to end her romantic relationship with Lebouef, which had been ongoing since he began working at the store in 1984.

When Lebouef placed the business for sale, he promised to pay Wilson half the proceeds, the suit states. The business did not sell immediately.

In the meantime, Wilson claims her health improved and she desired to become an active partner again. As a result, she offered to take over Wilson's half of the business for $150,000 -- the amount he was planning to pay her if he sold the company, she claims.

Lebouef did not agree to the deal, and instead offered her $200,000 if Wilson agreed not to take over the business but return to manage the day-to-day operations of The Boudain Hut.

In addition, he promised not to sell the business to anyone unless the buyer agreed to keep Wilson on as a manager, the suit states.

On July 23, Lebouef sold the business for $350,000, but failed to pay Wilson half of the sale's price, the complaint says.

In her complaint, Wilson alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraud, fraud by nondisclosure, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, violations of the Theft Liability Act and trespass to personal property against Lebouef.

In her complaint, Wilson seeks actual, statutory and exemplary damages, plus costs, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest at the highest legal rate and other relief the court deems just.

Jim Sharon Beardon of Bearden and Bearden in Orange will be representing her.

Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. D189-659

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