FROM THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
EVANGELINE, NO. 72349-B HONORABLE GARY J. ORTEGO, DISTRICT
F. Craton Barousse & Craton, LLC COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Neil LeJeune.
B. Pucheu, Jr. Pucheu, Pucheu & Robinson COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Rodney Driggers.
composed of Marc T. Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Candyce
G. Perret, Judges.
T. AMY, JUDGE
boundary action, the plaintiff sought a declaration of
ownership by acquisitive prescription of adjoining tracts of
property in Evangeline Parish. The defendant alleged
ownership by record title. Following trial, the trial court
found merit in the plaintiff's claim of acquisitive
prescription and additionally rejected the defendant's
claim of record title of one of the subject tracts. The
defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
Lejeune filed this boundary action in March 2011 asserting
ownership by acquisitive prescription of three tracts of
adjoining property in Evangeline Parish. The record reflects
that the three tracts were, at one time, part of the
operations of the Rock Island, Arkansas and Louisiana
Railroad. The plaintiff asserts that, after the railroad
ceased operations in the 1970s, he, along with his ancestors
in title, Errol and Dwight Young, incorporated the railroad
property into the existing farming operations on either side
of the disputed tracts. The plaintiff asserted that they
possessed the property in excess of thirty years by
"maintaining the vegetation, storing equipment on said
land, and maintaining a fence on said land." The
plaintiff sought establishment of the boundary to the extent
of his possession.
plaintiff named Rodney Driggers as a defendant in the
litigation, noting that Mr. Driggers "[r]ecently . . .
placed a chain across a gate in an attempt to lock the fence
wherein plaintiff herein has had continuous possession of
this land for more than thirty (30) years." The
plaintiff denied that the defendant physically possessed or
controlled the property.
turn, the defendant asserted that he was the title owner of
the property, having purchased certain property in Evangeline
Parish from the railroad in 1985 as purportedly represented
by quitclaim deed. By that deed he acquired all "of
Grantor's right, title and interest, estate, claim and
A strip of land of varying widths constituting the former
line of railroad and associated station grounds, yards,
depots, stock pens, coaling and watering sites and borrow
pits as same are evidenced, monumented and located through
the following described areas . . . .
deed thereafter describes with particularity the property
matter proceeded to a March 2017 bench trial, where the
parties stipulated to various issues before the court. By
reference to a corresponding survey entered into evidence as
Joint Exhibit 1,  the parties identified the three tracts
originally contested: Tract 4 (identified "as the west
half of the railroad right of way"); Tract 5 (identified
as "the [e]ast half of the railroad right of way");
and Tract 6 (identified as "the deed property"). In
reciting the parties' stipulation as to Tract 6, the
trial court noted that it was comprised of "two tracts .
. . sold to the railroad originally." Importantly, the
parties stipulated that Tract 4 was no longer in dispute,
representing that "the ownership of Tract No. 4 is
stipulated to be that of the plaintiff, Mr. and Mrs. Neil
two days of testimony, the trial court declared the plaintiff
and his wife to be the owners of "Tracts #5 and #6, along
with Tract #4, as stipulated by the parties, all located in
Evangeline Parish in full ownership against all others."
The trial court specifically found that the defendant failed
to prove title to Tract 6. Rather, the trial court referenced
"other public records and documentary evidence[, ]"
including parish parcel listings, oil and gas leases, and tax
notices favored the plaintiff. On this latter point, the
trial court pointed to the plaintiff's payment of
property taxes on Tracts 5 and 6.
the plaintiff's claim, the trial court further explained:
[T]hat even hypothetically should this court have
found that Driggers had proven having a valid/good title to
both Tract #5 and #6, which the court did not, the court
finds, as a finding of fact, that the plaintiff, Lejeune, has
proven by a preponderance and overwhelming evidence showing
and providing proof that Mr. Young, as plaintiff's
ancestor in title, and Lejeune, by tacking, have had actual
corporeal possession of these two tracts in dispute, and the
court further finds that Lejeune has carried his burden of
proof and proven his claim of acquisitive prescription of
these two tracts in dispute, all pursuant Lejeune and his
ancestors in title, Young's continuous, peaceful
uninterrupted actual and public possession of said two tracts
of land in dispute, and all pursuant to Lejeune and his
ancestor in title, Young, maintaining their continuous daily
farming operations, along with the many other activities of
possession, as to said tracts/land in dispute, specifically
Tracts #5 & #6 for over 30 plus years, and specifically
from 1980 until the Driggers' 2011 disturbance and this
resulting litigation filed herein.
resulting judgment reflected the declaration of the ownership
as discussed in the reasons for ruling, describing with
particularity each of the three tracts at issue in the
boundary action. See La.Civ.Code art.
La.Civ.Code art. 794. See also La.Code Civ.P. art.
defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in:
1) finding that he failed to demonstrate that he held title
to Tract 6; 2) not admitting impeachment documentation as to
the plaintiff's testimony (subject of Proffer No.1); 3)
finding that the plaintiff and his ancestors in title
acquired Tract 5 by corporeal possession of thirty years; 4)
failing to find tacit acknowledgement of his ownership; and
in 5) finding that the plaintiff's ancestors in title
possessed the disputed tracts within visible bounds and, in
turn, that he "tacked" that possession.
the defendant's assignments of error out of turn for
discussion, we first consider the only procedural issue
presented. During trial, the plaintiff testified regarding
his presence at an August 11, 1989 meeting conducted at the
law office of J. Nilas Young. Both parties advanced their
description of the meeting in support of their respective
positions as to whether possession was interrupted or whether
the defendant's ownership was acknowledged by the
plaintiff's ancestors in title. The plaintiff testified
that he attended the 1989 meeting at the request of Errol
Young. However, during the defendant's testimony, he
denied the plaintiff's presence at the meeting. For the
stated purpose of corroborating his own testimony, the
defendant attempted to introduce the attorney's bill from
the date of the meeting. He asserted that the billing record
reflected the meeting's attendees. However, the trial
court rejected the introduction of that evidence, permitting
a proffer instead.
the defendant challenges that ruling and argues that the
evidence was admissible as relevant. He suggests that the
document provided objective evidence of his version of events
at the August 1989 meeting and, in turn, his testimony
regarding that meeting constituted acknowledgment by the
Youngs of his ownership so as to interrupt prescription.
review, we leave the trial court's ruling undisturbed.
While the defendant suggests that the billing record, issued
to Errol and Dwight Young, was relevant as to the
meeting's attendees, the trial court rejected that
This is not a bill to Mr. Driggers. It is a bill and it
speaks for itself, attorney's fees for services rendered
and cost incurred in reference to a…a
bed…railroad bed dispute with Rodney L. Driggers, May
4, 1988 thru September 15, 1989 and it says on there, Mr.
Errol Young and Mr. Dwight Young. That's their bill.
They're not parties to this
litigation…uh…but as far as it being written
verification as you're offering it that's gonna be
for the Judge to decide but that…that…it does
not present to the Court written…anything written
confirming that…that who was there and who's not
there.… A billing of it…of itself being offered
as evidence of who was at the meeting will not be allowed[.]
Code of Evidence Article 402 provides that "[a]ll
relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided
by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of
Louisiana, this Code of Evidence, or other legislation."
Conversely, "[e]vidence which is not relevant is not
admissible." Id. While Mr. Driggers advances
the evidence as relevant, the trial court rejected the
argument that the document related to the proposition for
which it was advanced, as seen above. On this point, La.Code
Evid. art. 401 defines "relevant evidence" as that
"having any tendency to make the existence of any fact
that is of consequence to the determination of the action
more probable or less probable than it would be without the
evidence." Absent an abuse of discretion, a trial
court's ruling as to relevance will not be disturbed on
appeal. Quibodeaux v. Med. Ctr. of Sw. La., 97-204
(La.App. 3 Cir. 3/6/98), 707 So.2d 1380, writ
denied, 98-0926 (La. 5/15/98), 719 So.2d 465.
the trial court's observations and the nature of the
proffered billing document, we find no abuse of discretion in
the trial court's determination and leave its ruling
undisturbed. Both parties offered differing accounts of the
August 1989 meeting, with the defendant denying the
plaintiff's presence at that meeting. While the defendant
suggests that the document corroborates his version of
events, reference to the document does not dictate such a
finding. The multi-entry document instead supports the trial
court's conclusion that it did not evidence "written
confirmation" of the meeting's attendees and was
instead, a bill issued to the attorney's clients.
assignment of error lacks merit.
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