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Blevins v. Long Trusts

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 26, 2015

GLEN D. BLEVINS, ET AL., Plaintiff-Respondent
v.
THE LONG TRUSTS, ET AL., Defendant-Applicant

Page 501

On Application for Writs from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Webster, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 72624. Honorable Jeffrey Stephen Cox, Judge.

SEABAUGH, JOFFRION, SEPULVADO & VICTORY, LLC, By: Alan Thomas Seabaugh, Counsel for Applicant.

KITCHENS LAW FIRM, APLC, By: Paul Edward Kitchens, Counsel for Respondent.

Before BROWN, DREW and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 502

[49,605 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] DREW, J.

Defendants, Patrick and Annette Matthews and Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, filed this writ application seeking review of the denial of their exception of prescription. This court granted a writ of certiorari, and we now reverse the judgment of the trial court, sustain the defendants' exception of prescription,

Page 503

and dismiss the plaintiffs' lawsuit against the defendants.

Plaintiffs, Glen and Delia Blevins, own a piece of property in Webster Parish; Patrick and Annette Matthews own a tract immediately west of and contiguous to the Blevins property. A saltwater pipeline operated by The Long Trusts runs through the Matthews property near its border with the Blevins property.

On June 10, 2011, Patrick Matthews was operating a bulldozer on the Matthews property when he damaged the pipeline, later causing a saltwater spill. The Blevinses were not aware of the incident immediately; at the time, Mr. Blevins was recovering from knee surgery that he underwent on May 31, 2011. The pipeline was repaired and the damage on Mr. Matthews' property was remediated thereafter.

In his deposition, Mr. Blevins described when he first became aware of unusual activity near his property. He said that he came home from the hospital on June 5, 2011, and his wife went over to the affected area and learned that workers were clearing off the fence row. One of his neighbors told him that in the following days, the workers used a machine to pull several trees out of the ground. While Mr. Blevins was at home during his recovery, he could see workers hauling out " a lot of dirt" in big trucks from the [49,605 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] Matthews property. However, he wasn't able to visit the site of the work for some time. He explained:

It was seven weeks after the surgery and I was able to get in a truck and get the seat back far enough. I had my right foot on the gas and my left foot on the brake and I went across the road and asked the guy that was working over there at the other tank what had happened down there. He told me that they had a salt water leak and that they had been cleaning it up.

Mr. Blevins drove to the site and saw that the workmen had dug a hole on the Matthews property that abutted the Blevins property; he said that the hole revealed several feet of the survey stake that marked the boundary between his property and the Matthews property. Although the digging had required the removal of the fence between the properties, Blevins said, " As far as I knew, they had cleaned up his side and that I probably didn't have no damage because no one told me anything about it." Nevertheless, Blevins said:

Outside of that they had took [sic] all the big trees out down the fence row. The big trees was four foot, forty inches, four foot in diameter. The trees is actually on my side, but the water [sic] was embedded in some of them. . . . I think they took out somewhere between eight and ten. . . . Those were on my property. Actually one tree was five foot over on my property. It was really a large tree.

He later explained that he believed that Matthews and L. B. Walker Logging Company, Inc., had taken out 10 or so trees prior to the spill and sold them, and he believed that the damage to the pipeline was caused while digging for dirt to fill in the holes from which the trees had been removed. Matthews denied removing any large trees prior to the spill.

When asked what other damage he suspected that he had other than the missing trees, Blevins said, " Well, there was two big trees that was dying at [49,605 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] the time. They were real large trees." He also explained that his property was downhill from the Matthews property and said:

Q: Did you think -- did you suspicion [sic] that when you found out that

Page 504

there had been a spill it had to have come over ...

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