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Succession of White v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 27, 2018

SUCCESSION OF LAWRENCE EDMOND WHITE, ET AL. Plaintiffs-Appellees
v.
LESTER JONES, ET AL. Defendants-Appellants

          Appealed from the Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of Claiborne, Louisiana Trial Court No. 40, 291 Honorable Jenifer Ward Clason, Judge.

          THE LAW OFFICES OF SMITH & NWOKORIE By: Brian Smith Anselm N. Nwokorie Counsel for Appellants

          THE NEWELL LAW FIRM By: David M. Newell Counsel for Appellees

          Before BROWN, PITMAN, and STONE, JJ.

          PITMAN, J.

         Defendants Lester L. Jones and Ed White Sr., L.L.C. ("the LLC"), appeal a judgment which granted an injunction prohibiting them from entering or disturbing the house and other outbuildings constructed by Lawrence Edmond White ("LEW"), and currently occupied by heirs of his succession ("the succession"), on 160 acres of land owned by the LLC, until further order of the court. The judgment also recalled and vacated a judgment of eviction obtained by the LLC against the occupant of the house and outbuildings and granted the heirs of LEW the right to use, possess and occupy them until further order of the court. Although the judgment addressed other issues, they were not raised in this appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTS

         Ed White, Sr., and his wife owned 160 acres of land in Claiborne Parish located in the NE ¼ of Section 16, Township 23N, Range 7W. After his death, his wife was recognized in his succession's judgment of possession, rendered in December 1953, as the owner of a ½ interest in the 160 acres, and his nine children were recognized as owning a 1/18 interest each.

         Through various unestablished transactions, Claiborne Manor Nursing Home, Inc., acquired an interest in the property through a sheriff's deed dated December 15, 1999. After the nursing home acquired its interest in the property, 12 owners of the 160 acres created the LLC and each donated his interest in the 160 acres to the LLC. Although no cash exchanged hands, the transfers appear in a document entitled "cash deed" filed in the Claiborne Parish Conveyance Records on September 12, 2001, which stated that they were conveying their interest "together with all and singular improvements thereon and all rights thereunto belonging." Although the document is styled as a cash deed, the consideration for the transfer of ownership states it is made,

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD said described property unto said purchaser, its heirs and assigns forever.
This sale is made for the consideration of an ownership interest in ED WHITE, SR., L.L.C. proportionate to the interest owned in the land [.] (Emphasis added.)

         Once the LLC was formed, it purchased the nursing home's interest in the 160 acres by cash deed dated September 25, 2001, to reconsolidate ownership in the family LLC. Jones was named as its manager. At the time of the creation of the LLC, all 12 of the transferees to the LLC were direct lineal descendants of Ed White, Sr. One of these transferees was LEW. He was the only transferee who lived on the 160 acres when the LLC was established and at the time he transferred his interest in the land in return for a 5.6 percent interest in the LLC and its assets. He reinforced his continuous possession and use of the land by improving the home in which he was living and by moving various other buildings, workshops, and storage units (collectively, "the buildings") on the land. None of the other members of the LLC or Jones ever challenged LEW's right to live on the property, and LEW never sought permission to do so since he had lived there for many years before and after the LLC was created.

         When the LLC was created, LEW was not given an increased percentage in the LLC or additional compensation for the value of the buildings on the property. Those improvements were separately assessed to him by the Claiborne Parish Tax Assessor as owner until one week following his death on May 26, 2014. On June 2, 2014, Jones unilaterally directed the tax assessor to change the assessment of the buildings in the parish records from LEW to the LLC.

         The land and buildings were appraised in 2016, and the total value was $440, 000, with LEW's house being valued at $139, 932, and the other buildings at $15, 000, for a total of $154, 932. The remaining value of $285, 068 was attributed to the land. The value LEW had ...


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