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Netterville v. Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

March 23, 2018

DECARLA NETTERVILLE
v.
COMMONWEALTH LAND TITLE INSURANCE CO., ET AL.

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, DeCarla Netterville (“Netterville”), filed this action against the United States (the “Government”) and others alleging that the Government improperly and illegally acquired a Warranty Easement Deed (the “Deed”) over a portion of property. Netterville seeks to have her property released from the Government's easement. Netterville also seeks damages, including lost income due to restrictions on growing crops contained within the Deed.

         Before this Court is Defendant, Lauren Gay Coleman's (“Coleman”) Motion for Summary Judgment. See Record Document 79. Coleman asserts that she did not act as the settlement agent for the 1997 sale by James W. Davis (“Davis”), Netterville's father, that established a permanent easement in favor of the Government. Thus, Coleman contends that she is not liable for damages caused by the permanent encumbrance of Netterville's property. After careful consideration of all parties' submissions, and the law applicable before the Court, Coleman's Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 79) is GRANTED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Netterville alleges that, on or about April 1, 1997, the Deed was executed between Davis and the Government under the Wetlands Reserve Program. See Record Document 79-7. In the Deed, Davis purported to permanently encumber 670.3 acres in favor of the Government in exchange for $422, 300. See Record Document 1 at 2, ¶ 4.

         Netterville contends that Davis was not the rightful owner of a “substantial portion” of that property, which was owned instead by the Alvern Adams Davis Trust (“the AAD Trust”). See id. at 3, ¶ 6. Netterville was the sole principal beneficiary of the AAD Trust. See id. Upon the death of her father, the AAD Trust terminated, and Netterville became the owner of the Trust's assets. See id. Netterville contends that any encumbrance placed upon the real property formerly contained within the Trust is “absolutely null and void.” Id. at ¶ 7.

         Netterville alleges that she first learned of the “fraudulent and erroneous encumbrance/sale” in September 2014 when her husband learned that the property had been placed in the Wetlands Reserve Program by her father. Id. at 4, ¶ 10.

         The first cause of action asserted by Netterville was against Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company (“Commonwealth”) and Fidelity National Title Group (“Fidelity”). Netterville alleges that Commonwealth/Fidelity performed the title abstract on the subject property and provided a policy of title insurance. However, on December 27, 2016, Netterville's Motion to Dismiss With Prejudice the claims asserted by her against Fidelity was granted. See Record Document 35. Furthermore, on March 18, 2018, Netterville's Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice the claims asserted by her against Commonwealth was granted. See Record Document 96.

         Netterville's second cause of action was asserted against the Government. On December 20, 2017, the Court adopted the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation granting the Government's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Record Document 90.

         On February 15, 2017, Netterville filed a Second Supplemental Complaint adding two additional Defendants: Abstracting and Legal Research, Inc. (“Abstracting”) and Coleman. See Record Document 39. Netterville contends that Coleman acted as the settlement agent for the April 1, 1997 Deed. See Record Document 39 at 2, ¶ 28. Furthermore, Netterville alleges that Abstracting performed the title abstract for the Deed. Therefore, Netterville contends that because Davis was not the rightful owner of a substantial portion of the property encumbered by the Deed, Coleman and Abstracting are liable to her for damages. See id. at 3, ¶ 31. However, on November 22, 2017, Netterville's Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice the claims asserted by her against Abstracting was granted. See Record Document 89.

         Accordingly, the only remaining party to the suit is Coleman, who has filed this present Motion for Summary Judgment. The crux of this dispute concerns whether Coleman served as the settlement agent on the 1997 Deed. First, Coleman argues that she did not act as the settlement agent and performed no work in connection with the transaction. See Record Document 79-2 at 3. Therefore, Coleman contends that she is not liable to Netterville for damages associated with the transaction. See id. Rather, Coleman argues that the evidence supports that her then husband and law partner, William F. Henderson (“Henderson”), was the settlement agent. Next, Coleman argues that even if Netterville could create an issue of fact as to Coleman's involvement, any possible claims against her are barred by the applicable prescriptive and peremptive periods. See id.

         Netterville argues that there exists issues of material fact in that:

(1) Coleman is listed as settlement agent for the 1997 Deed on the ...

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