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Smith v. Felton

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

April 6, 2017

CRYSTAL A. SMITH AND GWENDOLYN SMITH
v.
RAYMOND FELTON, JR AND XYZ INSURANCE COMPANY

         Appealed from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket Number 603, 889 Honorable Todd Hernandez, Judge

          Prentice L. White Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Plaintiffs/ Appellants Crystal A. Smith and Gwendolyn Smith

          Kenneth L. Blanchard, Jr. Plaquemine, LA Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee Raymond Felton, Jr.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., GUIDRY, AND McCLENDON, JJ.

          GUIDRY, J.

         Plaintiffs appeal a judgment rejecting their claims for damages and injunctive relief and declaring the defendant to be the owner of the property to which they claimed ownership. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Crystal A. Smith and Gwendolyn Smith filed a petition for damages against Raymond Felton, Jr. on August 9, 2011, alleging that they were the owners of a tract of land in Iberville Parish bearing the municipal address of 31980 Lacroix Road in White Castle, Louisiana. The plaintiffs claimed that Mr. Felton was misrepresenting that he owned the property, that he had entered onto the property without their permission or consent, and that he intentionally damaged the house located on the property. They further alleged that they suffered property damage and mental distress as a consequence of Mr. Felton's actions and therefore were seeking injunctive relief forever prohibiting Mr. Felton from entering onto the property as well as damages.

         Mr. Felton answered the plaintiffs' petition generally denying their allegations of ownership and trespass. Instead, Mr. Felton alleged that he was the owner of the tract of land and the improvements situated on the property located in Iberville Parish, bearing the municipal address of 31980 Lacroix Road, White, Castle, Louisiana. Mr. Felton further answered to assert that "[o]n knowledge, information and belief, there are dual chains of title to the subject property" and that the common ancestor in title to both the plaintiffs' title and his was Voltaire Baptiste. Mr. Felton then identified his chain of title as originating from an act of cash sale from Voltaire Baptiste to Norah Williams that was dated and recorded on February 23, 1897. Mr. Felton identified the plaintiffs' chain of title as originating from an act of cash sale from Voltaire Baptiste to Morris Meyer that was dated August 21, 1899, and that was recorded on August 24, 1899. Thus, Mr. Felton prayed for judgment in his favor decreeing him owner and entitled to be maintained in possession of the property in dispute.

         A trial on the merits in this matter was held on August 22, 2014, and after taking the matter under advisement, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Mr. Felton, holding that "Raymond Felton, Jr., his ancestors in title and their agents have been in continuous corporeal possession of the subject property for a period in excess of thirty years and recognizing Raymond Felton Jr. as an owner and as such entitled to be maintained in possession" of the property bearing the municipal address of 31980 Lacroix Road, White Castle, Louisiana 70788. The written judgment in favor of Mr. Felton was signed on July 6, 2015.

         In response to the judgment, the plaintiffs filed a motion for new trial, [1]which was denied by the trial court, and this devolutive appeal followed.[2]

         DISCUSSION

         The plaintiffs' sole contention on appeal is that the trial court misconstrued the evidence presented at trial to find that the defendant established thirty-year acquisitive prescription of the property in dispute. In particular, plaintiffs argue that Mr. Felton failed to establish a juridical link between his alleged ancestors in title to himself, whereas they presented evidence establishing such a juridical link regarding their claim to the property in dispute. At trial, the plaintiffs offered a copy of a May 22, 1984 act of cash sale wherein they purchased from the estate of their mother, Agnes Watkins Smith, the following described property:

A certain lot of land, lying and situated in the Parish of Iberville, and on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in the Village of Dorseyville, and being the eastern one-third of Lot 36 on plan of Dorseyville, on file in the Recorder's office of Iberville Parish, and measuring 62 1/3 feet front on Julia Street by all the depth between parallel lines of 77 feet more or less or to Lot No. 34 in the rear, bounded front by Julia Street, North or towards the ...

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