JAMESTOWN FORESTLAND, L.L.C.
ROBBIE LEE SETLIFF, ET AL.
FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO.
257, 524 HONORABLE PATRICIA EVANS KOCH, DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael H. Davis Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: Robbie Lee Setliff Lee Ray Setliff
Randall B. Keiser Jeremy C. Cedars Keiser Law Firm, P.L.C.
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Jamestown Forestland, L.L.C.
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders, and Candyce G.
CANDYCE G. PERRET, JUDGE.
action was initially filed as an eviction action by
plaintiff, Jamestown Forestland, L.L.C.
("Jamestown"), against defendants Robbie Lee
Setliff, Lee Ray Setliff, and Susan Stark (collectively
"Defendants"). Defendants responded to the eviction
action by filing a reconventional demand seeking a judgment
of ownership and/or possession of the 3.23 acre property that
was the subject of the eviction proceeding. After a hearing,
the trial court granted Jamestown's peremptory exception
of res judicata. For the following reasons, we vacate the
judgment of the trial court and remand this matter to the
trial court in order for the owner of the subject property,
W.T. Burton Industries, Inc. ("Burton Industries"),
to be joined as a necessary party to the litigation.
following facts have been ascertained from the record
pleadings and the exhibits to the pleadings. Jamestown is the
leasehold tenant of property located in Rapides Parish,
Louisiana, described as "[a] 3.23 acre more or less
parcel of property lying and being situate in the Northwest
Quarter (NW ¼) of Section 29, Township 5 North, Range
5 West . . . ." Jamestown's lease is with Burton
Industries, who is the owner of the subject property. On
December 7, 2016, Jamestown filed a petition for eviction
against Defendants, alleging that they have no ownership or
possessory interest in the subject property and that
Defendants refuse to vacate the premises despite receiving
written notice on November 15, 2016.
January 31, 2017, Defendants filed an answer and
reconventional demand against Jamestown, alleging that they
possess, as owner, the 3.23 acre property that was the
subject of the eviction proceeding. In addition, Defendants
sought ownership and/or possession of an "adjoining
thirty (30) acres also in Section 29, Township 5 North, Range
5 West, Louisiana, Meridian, Northwest Land District, Rapides
Parish, Louisiana." Defendants argue that they "had
possession as owners of the above described property quietly
and without interruption for more than thirty (30) years,
immediately prior to the written notice to vacate said
premises delivered on November 15, 2016."
February 10, 2017, Jamestown filed peremptory exceptions of
res judicata and non-joinder of a party and dilatory
exceptions of improper cumulation of actions, unauthorized
use of summary proceeding, and vagueness. In support of its
exceptions, Jamestown attached the following exhibits: (1) a
January 20, 1977 judgment [Civil Suit No. 91, 760] that
recognized "Wm. T. Burton Industries, Inc. [Burton
Industries] . . . as legal owner of the immovable
property" and ordered Defendants' grandfather, Leo
George ("Mr. George"), to vacate the property,
which is now the subject of the eviction action; (2) a July
13, 1977 judgment that denied Mr. George's motion for a
new trial; (3) the trial court's reasons for judgment,
dated December 22, 1976; and (4) discovery responses from Mr.
George in Suit No. 91, 760.
memorandum in support of the exceptions, Jamestown argued
that Defendants have pled the same cause of action that
existed and was asserted by Mr. George in Civil Suit 91, 760,
and that the 1977 judgment is final and valid. Jamestown
argued that the parties in this current action are
"simply the successors of the 1977 litigation: Jamestown
as a lessee of Burton [Industries] and the
Plaintiffs-in-reconvention [Defendants] as direct descendants
of Leo George." Thus, Jamestown argued that
Defendants' reconventional demand is res judicata and
should be dismissed with prejudice. Further, Jamestown argued
that if the trial court did not dismiss on grounds of res
judicata, its peremptory exception of nonjoinder of a party
should be granted because Jamestown's lease is with
Burton Industries, the owner of the subject property.
opposition to the exception of res judicata, Defendants
argued that the parties are not the same because the 1975
litigation involved only their grandfather, Mr. George.
Further, Defendants assert that the cause of action in the
first suit was relying on claims of possession predating 1977
and that their current cause of action relies on thirty year
possession following 1977. In regard to Jamestown's
exception of non-joinder of a party, Defendants submit that
the owner of the property, Burton Industries, is not an
indispensable party because Jamestown has a ninety-nine year
lease on the subject property that terminates in 2065.
hearing, the trial court signed a judgment on April 24, 2017,
that granted Jamestown's peremptory exception of res
judicata, "finding that the parties are in the same
capacity, and, the claims regarding bad faith acquisitive
prescription are the same as asserted in Civil Suit No. 91,
760 (William Burton Industries, Inc., v. Leo
George)." The trial court pretermitted the
peremptory exception of non-joinder and dilatory exceptions
of improper cumulation of actions, unauthorized use of
summary proceeding and vagueness. Defendants now appeal this
answered the appeal requesting that the judgment of the trial
court granting the exception of res judicata be affirmed at
Defendants' cost. Further, Jamestown alleges that if, and
only if, this court reverses the judgment of the trial court,
that this court address the pretermitted exceptions and issue
a judgment on the pretermitted exceptions. While on appeal,
Jamestown also filed a motion to dismiss Defendants'
appeal and an exception of no right of action arguing that
even though it has the right to bring an eviction action, it
is not a proper party defendant on the issue of ownership
because its lease with Burton Industries does not confer any
real rights to the property. However, because we are
remanding this matter to the ...