NEW ORLEANS – The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal has sided with float builder Blaine Kern, Sr. and set the stage for another court hearing to decide whether he should be reinstated as head of the float-building company he founded.
The appeals court on Wednesday reversed a lower court ruling ordering Blaine Kern to surrender control of his float-building company to his son Barry. The three-judge panel lifted a temporary injunction against the elder Kern and threw out an agreement between the father and son that was brokered by several Mardi Gras krewe captains.
That means the lawsuit, in which Barry Kern accused his father of ruining the company, will go back to Orleans Civil District Court for a full hearing.
Blaine Kern's attorney, William Wessel, said his client was pleased with Wednesday's ruling.
“Basically, the injunction is set aside and we’re pleased with that,” Wessel said. “It’s very rare for a majority owner of a company to be replaced by a judge. We feel a judge is not in a position to decide what’s best for a company. We’re looking forward to having a full trial on this matter, although we’d prefer that they just drop their lawsuit.”
In a statement, Randy Smith, the attorney for Barry Kern, called the ruling a technical one, since the appeals court ruled that civil court Judge Kern Reese should have heard evidence, rather than considering affidavits by both sides.
"We are gratified that the court of appeal found no substantive error in the trial judge's ruling but rather found that a different procedure should have been used," Smith said. "We look forward to presenting the evidence we previously submitted by affidavit in a live hearing where we can also cross-examine Mr. Blaine Kern and any witnesses he may have. We are confident that the end result will be the same."
For more than a year, the Kerns have been embroiled in a bitter fight over control of Blaine Kern Artists Inc., the company Blaine Kern founded more than 50 years ago.
Barry Kern had sued his father in 2010, saying that Blaine Kern had jeopardized the future of the business by meddling in its day-to-day operations and eating away at its cash reserves. Specifically, Barry Kern said his father and his fourth wife spent lavishly on houses, cars and other luxury items.
A truce was declared a short time later, and Judge Reese held the elder Kern to the terms of an arrangement which would have had Blaine Kern step aside. But on Wednesday, Blaine Kern's attorney said that agreement was only temporary, for the good of Carnival.
“That was a temporary agreement to get us through that Mardi Gras season of a year ago,” Wessel said. “That was only designed to last through that Mardi Gras. It should be moot at this point.”
In his appeal, Wessel claimed that Judge Reese should have held a full evidentiary hearing on the matter, since it forced Blaine Kern to turn over control of the company. Barry Kern’s attorney claimed that the ruling simply held the elder Kern to the agreement he signed in 2010.
The Kern company now builds floats for most of the major Carnival krewes in New Orleans and for companies and events around the world.
Barry Kern now has 14 days to appeal the ruling to the full Fourth Circuit bench for a rehearing. Otherwise, the case will be sent back for trial before Judge Kern Reese.