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United States v. 0.242 Acres of Land

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 19, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
0.242 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS IN PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES STATE OF LOUISIANA, AND ESTATE OF CHARLES COLOMBEL AND ESTATE OF LEONORA RODI COLOMBEL, ET AL.

         SECTION: "S" (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the United States of America's Motion for Determination of Title and to Determine Just Compensation (Doc. #46) is GRANTED.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that prior to title vesting in the United States of America, ownership of the property was held by the persons listed in this Order and Reasons.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the just compensation for the taking of Tract 145E, payable by the United States to the defendants/claimants, is the sum of $21, 800.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the United States of America will submit a proposed judgment consistent with this Order and Reasons within 21 days of the date of this Order and Reasons.

         BACKGROUND

         This matter is before the court on the United States's motion for determination of title and just compensation.

         On July 13, 2016, the United States filed this action condemning 0.242 acres of land in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana ("Tract 145E") for the public use of flood protection. Thereafter, the United States deposited $21, 800 into the court's registry, at which time title vested in the United States.

         The United States has identified the persons that may have an ownership interest in Tract 145E. The property was purchased by Charles Colombel and his wife, Lenora Rodi Colombel, by Act of Cash Sale in 1908. Both Mr. and Mrs. Charles Colombel died intestate, and they had seven daughters, who are all deceased. Three of the Colombel's daughters died without issue, and the other four have numerous descendants. The United States determined that, due to the law of intestate successions, ownership of Tract 145E was likely held by 37 living heirs of Charles and Lenora Rodi Colombel. The estates of all of the Colombel's decedents who died intestate and all of the Colombel's known living heirs were named in this proceeding.

         After recording the Notice of Lis Pendens with the Plaquemines Parish Clerk of Court, the United States obtained an updated title through the date of the Notice to ensure that all parties potentially holding an interest in Tract 145E had been named in this proceeding. The title contractor determined that the Affidavits of Heirship that the United States Army Corps of Engineers obtained during the negotiations with the heirs and filed into the public record were sufficient to identify the 37 living heirs of Charles and Lenora Rodi Colombel as the owners of Tract No. 145E prior to the United States's filing of the Declaration of Taking. These 37 living heirs had already been named as defendants/claimants in this proceeding. Thus, it was unnecessary to add parties hereto. None of the defendants/claimants have appeared or answered.

         Prior to filing this civil action, the United States obtained a trial appraisal of Tract 145E that estimated the value Tract 145E to be $21, 800.

         On May 24, 2018, the United States filed the instant motion to determine title and just compensation. To assist the court in rendering a decision the United States filed the Department of two versions of the Army Interim Binder on Owner's Title Guarantee (Insurance) Policy, and the Appraisal Report. All of these documents explain the Colombel's family history and the ownership and value of Tract 145E.

         On May 25, 2018, this court ordered that the motion would be submitted for hearing on the papers on July 18, 2018, because no defendant has appeared or answered. On July 5, 2018, this court granted the United States's motion for leave to file proof of publication. The proof of publication states that on three occasions in June 2018 in the Times-Picayune an announcement that ...


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