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United States v. 0.225 Acres of Land

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
0.225 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATE IN PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES, STATE OF LOUISIANA, and GULF CREDIT CORPORATION, NAME & ADDRESS OF PAYEE INTEREST AMOUNT

         SECTION "F"

         TRACT No. 104E

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTINIL. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the United States's motion for determination of title and request for hearing to determine just compensation. On April 3, 2017, the Court granted the motion insofar as the Court ordered that the issues of ownership and just compensation for the taking of Tract 104E will be submitted for hearing on May 17, 2015, on the papers, because no defendant had appeared or answered. On May 5, 2017, the Court granted the United States's motion for leave to file proof of publication and on May 18, 2017, the United States filed its Notice of Service, certifying that it had served a copy by regular and certified mail of this Court's April 3, 2017 order on certain persons listed on the certificate of service. For the reasons that follow, the United States's motion is GRANTED, and the Court hereby resolves the ownership and just compensation issues -- the only issues in this case -- as follows.

         Background

         This is a land condemnation case in which the United States has condemned, for the public use of flood protection, 0.225 acres of land situated in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana (Tract 104E).

         On January 29, 2016, the United States filed this land condemnation action, condemning Tract 104E. On February 2, 2016, the United States deposited $21, 000.00 into the Court's registry, at which time title vested in the United States.

         The United States has identified the persons, estates, and entity that may have an ownership interest in Tract 104E. The property was purchased by two brothers, Celestin and Esteve Rodi, by Act of Sale in 1897. Both brothers died intestate. Title evidence identified only “the Heirs of Celestine Rode, the Heirs of Esteve Rodi, and Gulf Credit Corporation” as owners. The United States determined that Celestin Rodi had seven children and Esteve Rodi had 10 children, all of whom are now deceased. Of the 159 heirs of the Rodi brothers, at least 50 are deceased, and only nine of the deceased heirs have judgments of possessions placing their heirs into possession of their estate. The United States identified many of the brothers' heirs, but very few cooperated with attempts to purchase the tract.

         After the Notice of Lis Pendens was recorded in Plaquemines Parish on August 1, 2016, the United States obtained a title update to ensure that all parties that may be owed compensation had been identified. The title update revealed that Gulf Credit Corporation had sold its interest to Gulf Loan Company, Inc. by Act of Cash Sale dated December 30, 2015 and recorded on March 2, 2016 in the Conveyance Records of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. On December 14, 2016, the Court granted the United States's motion to add Gulf Loan Company to this civil action.

         The record reflects that all known interested parties have been served with notice of the condemnation, or that they otherwise have notice by virtue of publication. The title company has determined that more than 100 individuals and estates of individuals, as well as Gulf Loan Company, Inc., have ownership interest in the land. All of these individuals are identified in Schedule F of the Declaration of Taking as interested parties to the action. None of these individuals have filed an appearance or an answer.

         Before filing this civil action, the United States obtained a trial appraisal of Tract 104E that estimated the perpetual flood protection levee easement acquired over the 0.225 acres of land to be $18, 000. The United States deposited $21, 000 in just compensation into the Court's registry.[1]

         To assist the Court in determining the owners of compensable interests at the time of the taking, the United States has submitted to the Court a title insurance policy and title update, which indicates the owners of record at the time the Lis Pendens and Amended Lis Pendens were recorded in Plaquemines Parish. The United States now requests that the Court (1) review the evidence submitted to determine who is entitled to receive just compensation for the 0.225 acres of land involved in this action and (2) make a determination of just compensation pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1(h).

         I.

...


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