Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Andermann v. Rouillier

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

April 25, 2019

ROY ANDERMANN
v.
JOHNNY PATRICK ROUILLIER, ET AL

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. JAMES, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 33, 694, DIVISION "D" HONORABLE JESSIE M. LEBLANC, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE-2ND APPELLANT, ROY ANDERMANN Frederic C. Fondren Paul G. Aucoin Charles G. Blaize, Jr.

          COUNSEL FOR INTERVENOR/APPELLANT, ST. JAMES PROPERTIES, INC. Robert J. Burvant Robert J. Stefani, Jr. Amanda A. James

          COUNSEL FOR INTERVENOR/APPELLEE, UCAR PIPELINE, INC. David M. Bienvenu, Jr. Lexi T. Holinga Anthony J. Lascaro

          Martin S. Triche COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, JOHNNY ROUILLIER Lana O. Chaney

          Charles S. Long COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, LISA POCHE CALHOUN Lisa Poche Calhoun

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg Wicker, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          HANS J. LILJEBERG JUDGE

         Plaintiff/Appellant, Roy Andermann, and Intervenor/Appellant, St. James Properties, Inc., each appeal the trial court's September 20, 2017 Final Judgment, setting a boundary between property owned by Andermann and defendant/appellees, Johnny Patrick Rouillier and Lisa Poche Calhoun.[1] The trial court also dismissed Andermann and St. James' claims of ownership over disputed property located along the boundary between the properties. For reasons stated more fully below, we affirm the trial court's September 20, 2017 Final Judgment and remand for the trial court to amend the judgment to further specify that the boundary is set in accordance with the January 5, 2007 Fairburn Survey referenced in Andermann and St. James' Act of Partition. We further instruct the trial court to attach a copy of the 2007 Fairburn Survey to its amended judgment.

         INTRODUCTION

         This boundary action involves a dispute over possession and ownership of approximately three acres, referred to as the "gap tract," located between property owned by Andermann, and adjoining landowners, Johnny Patrick Rouillier and Lisa Poche Calhoun. Andermann and St. James own partitioned lots located in the downriver tract (the "Andermann Tract") and Rouillier and Calhoun own the adjoining upriver tract (the "Rouillier/Calhoun Tract"). The parties contend the gap tract consists primarily of trees located in the rear portion of the tracts. No visible markers or monuments existed on the gap tract to define a boundary between their properties.

         The boundary issue did not arise until intervenor, UCAR Pipeline, Inc. ("UCAR"), approached Andermann in 2006, to obtain a right of way/servitude along the entire length of the Andermann Tract to build and operate a pipeline. At that time, Andermann co-owned the Andermann Tract with St. James. Andermann did not inform St. James of UCAR's plan to install the pipeline on the Andermann Tract. Rather, he entered into an agreement with St. James to partition the Andermann Tract, thereby allowing Andermann to acquire full ownership of the land where UCAR intended to place the pipeline. In 2007, Andermann hired Alvin Fairburn to survey and subdivide the Andermann Tract ("2007 Fairburn Survey"). In order to save time and money, he provided Fairburn with a survey of the Andermann Tract drawn in 1978 by surveyor Felix Dornier ("Dornier Survey"), [2]and asked him to use this survey to subdivide and partition the Andermann Tract between himself and St. James.

         After the partition, Andermann provided UCAR with the 2007 Fairburn Survey and UCAR used this survey to prepare the pipeline servitude Andermann granted to UCAR. Based on this survey, UCAR also determined it would need a servitude from the adjoining landowners, Rouillier and Calhoun, as the pipeline would cross into their property as it approached Highway 3125.[3] After UCAR began clearing the land to construct the pipeline, Andermann and St. James raised issues with UCAR regarding ownership of the property where Rouillier and Calhoun granted the servitude. After comparing the 2007 Fairburn Survey with the Landry Survey contained in Rouillier and Calhoun's chain of title, it became evident that a three-acre triangular shaped gap existed between the surveys that started in the rear portion of the properties at the 40 arpent line and grew wider as the line approached the 80 arpent line.

         Andermann instituted the boundary action against Rouillier and Calhoun on January 14, 2010, requesting the trial court set the boundary on the upriver side of the gap tract because he owned this property based on his title and under the theory of acquisitive prescription. Andermann and St. James allege the property descriptions in their chain of title indicate their property is bounded above by the Rouillier/Calhoun Tract, and Rouillier and Calhoun's title sets that boundary according to the Landry Survey. Andermann and St. James argue that based on the Landry Survey, the gap tract is included in their title. Therefore, Andermann and St. James requested that the trial court refer to the property description and survey contained in Rouillier and Calhoun's chain of title and set the boundary according to the Landry Survey.

         St. James filed a Petition for Intervention on September 10, 2010, alleging it co-owns the gap tract with Andermann. UCAR filed a Petition for Intervention on August 6, 2010, aligning with Rouillier and Calhoun on the grounds that the boundary litigation would affect its pipeline servitudes.

         Rouillier and Calhoun, on the other hand, contend the boundary should be set on the downriver side of the gap tract as they acquired the right to possess the gap tract by their own acts of possession and by means of a pipeline servitude they granted to UCAR in 2008. Rouillier and Calhoun contend UCAR precariously possessed the gap tract on their behalf for more than one year and they acquired the right to possess this property. As a result, they argue the trial court correctly presumed them to be owners of the gap tract and required Andermann and St. James to prove their title to the gap tract pursuant to the property descriptions and survey contained in their own chain of title.

         For reasons set forth more fully below, we find the trial court did not err by setting the boundary in accordance with the 2007 Fairburn Survey referenced in Andermann and St. James' Act of Partition. The trial court properly determined that Rouillier and Calhoun acquired a right to possess the gap tract by means of the servitude they granted to UCAR. Because Rouillier and Calhoun were in possession of the gap tract, Andermann and St. James were required to prove their title to this property by establishing "title good against the world" - that is without relying on property descriptions and the Landry Survey contained in Rouillier and Calhoun's chain of title. Andermann and St. James were not able to prove ownership of the gap tract by title or acquisitive prescription. Therefore, the trial court correctly determined the boundary in accordance with the last option provided under boundary law - Rouillier and Calhoun's possession of the gap tract.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The parties tried this boundary action before Judge Alvin Turner, Jr. for six days in early 2013. Shortly after the trial concluded, the judge recused himself from deciding the boundary issues. The grounds for recusal arose after the judge appointed an expert surveyor to assist him in addressing certain issues raised during the trial.[4] Shortly thereafter, the judge learned the court-appointed expert spoke with one of Rouillier/UCAR's expert surveyors who testified at trial.[5]Following Judge Turner's recusal, this matter was transferred to Judge Jessie M. Leblanc.

         On June 28, 2013, Judge Leblanc held a status conference and informed the parties she would appoint James Falgout as an expert surveyor to assist her. Pursuant to Judge Leblanc's request, the parties submitted post-trial briefs in January 2014, and the court heard oral argument on May 12, 2014. In the meantime, Judge Leblanc learned the surveyor she appointed discovered a conflict of interest requiring him to withdraw from the case. A second attempt to appoint a surveyor met the same fate. The matter remained dormant for over three years while the trial court searched for a surveyor who did not have a conflict of interest. In its written reasons, the trial court explained that every surveyor it contacted had either consulted with one of the parties regarding this litigation or was unwilling to serve as a court-appointed surveyor. According to St. James, it requested a conference with the trial court in April 2017, regarding the status of the matter. At the conference, the trial court indicated it would render a decision without the assistance of an expert surveyor.

         On September 20, 2017, the trial court found in favor of Rouillier and Calhoun and determined the boundary depicted in the "Fairburn Survey shall be judicially established as the boundary between Andermann/St. James and Rouillier/Calhoun." The trial court further dismissed any ownership claims over the gap tract raised by Andermann and St. James, and assessed all costs against them. Finally, the trial court designated its ruling as a final judgment for appeal purposes.

         In its written reasons, the trial court indicated that Andermann and St. James were required to establish "title good against the world" without referring to the Landry Survey and property descriptions contained in the Rouillier/Calhoun chain of title. The trial court noted the Landry Survey did not appear anywhere in the Andermann/St. James' chain of title. The trial court further indicated Andermann and St. James could not establish title to the gap tract based on their own chain of title. The trial court noted evidence indicating the descriptions used in the 1874 sale from the Hampton sisters to Andermann and St. James' ancestor in title, Melford Webre, called for proration or proportionality in establishing the property lines, and further noted the 2007 Fairburn Survey satisfied these descriptions:

Defendants contend that the calls used in the 1874 sale from the Hampton sisters to Webre call for proration or proportionality in locating the boundary. The Webre sale did in fact contain a boundary, that being the White Hall Plantation. While no original subdivision plat of White Hall Plantation could be located, other historical records contain surveys that satisfy the property description of proration or proportionality. Andermann's expert surveyor, Anthony Cavell, acknowledged a survey done by Guy Seghers pertaining to a portion of White Hall Plantation in 1937. The survey plat contains a section entitled 'Historical Data,' which reads, 'This Plantation was subdivided by a Mr. Cleron into 26 lots with the side lines closing or converging in the rear in the same degree as the main tract of Whitehall Plantation.' The survey also provides that each lot was 81.67 feet on the 40 arpent line.
There were two other calls in the Webre sale property description that satisfy proration. The first is the reference in section (1) which only describes the first 40 arpents. The reference is 'to measuring one arpent and a half front on said river, running between lines closing in the rear as the same degree as the main tract of White Hall Plantation.' The second is in section (2) which refers to the land between the 40 arpent and 80 arpent line. This reference is 'in proportion of the whole double concession lands claimed by vendors to the main tract of White Hall Plantation.' Again, Andermann's expert, Mr. Cavell, admitted in trial that the boundary line depicted in the Fairburn survey satisfies the 'calls' in the Hampton sale to Webre that requires boundaries to be established based on proration between the subdivided lots in White Hall Plantation.

         The trial court ultimately determined the only survey contained in the Andermann/St. James' chain of title was the 2007 Fairburn Survey, which did not include the gap tract, and therefore, Andermann and St. James could not prove title to the gap tract through their own chain of title. After rejecting Andermann's arguments regarding ownership of the gap tract by means of acquisitive prescription, the trial court then turned to the final prong available to fix a boundary - possession. The trial court determined Rouillier and Calhoun acquired possession of the gap tract through UCAR's precarious possession exercised by means of the pipeline servitudes they granted to UCAR over the gap tract. The UCAR servitudes set the property line between the parties' properties according to the 2007 Fairburn Survey. Therefore, the trial court determined the boundary should be fixed according to the boundary depicted in the 2007 Fairburn survey.

         CHAIN OF TITLE FOR ANDERMANN AND ROUILLIER/CALHOUN TRACTS

         The properties at issue historically formed part of White Hall Plantation. The Hampton sisters acquired the property in 1869 and subdivided the plantation into 26 lots. The Rouillier/Calhoun Tract is adjacent to and upriver from the Andermann Tract. Both properties are narrow tracts that run from the east bank of the Mississippi River through the 40 arpent line, across Highway 3125, and end at the 80 arpent line.[6] The parties do not dispute the location of the boundary between the Mississippi River and the 40 arpent line; the dispute relates solely to the boundary between the 40 arpent line and the 80 arpent line. Property between the 40 arpent and 80 arpent lines are referred to in the property descriptions in the older title documents as "double concession" lands.[7]

         The disputed gap tract at issue in this matter runs along the entirety of the properties in the double concession lands between the 40 and 80 arpent line in the shape of a triangle. A copy of a February 9, 2011 survey map prepared by Rouillier/UCAR's expert surveyor, David Patterson, illustrating the gap tract (shaded area) existing between the Andermann and Rouillier/Calhoun Tracts is attached to this opinion as Appendix 1.[8]

         Ancestor in Common

         The parties agree their respective chains of title trace back to common ancestors in title, the Hampton sisters, who subdivided White Hall Plantation. The first relevant transfer occurred on November 6, 1874, when the Hampton sisters sold a tract of land to Michel Bergeron, the ancestor in title to Rouillier and Calhoun. The Hampton sisters sold Michel Bergeron a portion of White Hall Plantation extending from the Mississippi River to the 40 arpent line. This sale did not include any double concession lands.

         Approximately a month later, the Andermann Tract was created when the Hampton sisters sold property to Melford Webre, Andermann and St. James' ancestor in title, on December 19, 1874. The property description in the act of sale stated as follows:

1. A tract of land being a portion of a larger tract of land or plantation, commonly known as the White Hall Plantation, situated in the Parish of St. James, left bank of the Mississippi River, at about sixty-eight miles above the City of New Orleans, measuring one arpent and a half front on said river, by a depth of forty arpents, running between lines closing in the rear in the same degree as the main tract of White Hall Plantation, together with the buildings, fences and other improvements and all servitudes and rights of drainage there to belonging, which said tract of land is composed of the lower half of Lot No. 10 and Lot No. 11 on a plat of subdivision of said White Hall Plantation, and is bounded above by the lands of Michel Bergeron, and below by other lands of the present vendors, which said tract is sold with full warranty of title in law, and free from all encumbrances and evictions of any nature whatsoever.
2. All the rights, titles and pretentions of his said constituents, in and to the double concession lands, beginning at forty arpents from the river, to the rear, in the rear of the front or riparian tract, herein above first described, and belonging to said tract in the proportion of the whole double concession lands claimed by vendors to the main tract of White Hall Plantation, which said claims or titles to said double concession lands, are presently sold without any warranty of title whatsoever. [Emphasis added.]

         Pursuant to this property description, the front 40 arpents of Melford Webre's property was contiguous to the land purchased by Michel Bergeron, as it was described as "bounded above by the lands of Michel Bergeron." However, unlike the sale to Michel Bergeron, the sale to Melford Webre included the double concession lands.

         In 1883, Michel Bergeron acquired the double concession lands contiguous and adjacent to Melford Webre's double concession lands. The Sale with Mortgage that Michel Bergeron entered into with the Hampton sisters on April 13, 1883, described the property as follows:

[A]ll the Rights, titles and pretentions of his aforenamed constituents in and to that portion of the Double concession lands of the White Hall Plantation, situated in the rear of and adjoining the property of the present purchaser, which is itself a portion of said White Hall Plantation, and situated in the Parish of St. James, measuring one arpent front on the left bank of the Mississippi River, at about Sixty Eight miles above the City of New Orleans, bounded above by lands of Aristide Louviere and below by lands of Melford Webre, which titles and pretentions to said double concession are sold without warranty of titles whatever. [Emphasis added.][9]

         Andermann Tract Partition

         The Andermann Tract originally acquired by Melford Webre remained intact as a single piece of property until Andermann and St. James partitioned it in 2007. Prior to that time, a Sheriff's deed recorded March 17, 1910, transferred Melford Webre's property to A.B. Vegas using the following property description:

A certain tract of land, situated in the Parish of St. James, on the Left bank of the mississippi river (sic), at about 67 miles above the City of New Orleans, measuring One arpent and a half front, on said river by Forty arpents in depth, bounded above by the property of the late Michel Bergeron and below by that of Eugene Webre, together with all buildings and improvements thereon and thereto belonging and all the rights, titles and pretentions of the Misses Hampton in and to the double concession lands, beginning at the Forty arpent line in the rear. [Emphasis added.]

         This legal description is employed throughout the remainder of the chain of title relating to the Andermann Tract. By instrument recorded on June 18, 1910, Vegas sold the property to Emile and Sam Andermann, and Sam sold his interests in the property to Emile several months later in October 1910, using the same property description quoted above.

         Roy Andermann eventually acquired a fifty-five percent (55%) undivided interest in the Andermann Tract through an inheritance from his father and by acquiring the interests of other Andermann heirs. St. James owned the tract of land downriver from the Andermann Tract and became Andermann's co-owner by acquiring a forty-five percent (45%) interest in the Andermann Tract from other Andermann heirs. The property descriptions in the various conveyances to Andermann and St. James continued to describe the Andermann Tract as bounded above by the property of the late Michel Bergeron, Rouillier and Calhoun's ancestor in title.

         Following its decision to install a 23-mile pipeline in St. James Parish in late 2006, UCAR's representative, Stephen LeBlanc, approached Andermann about obtaining a right of way over the Andermann Tract. Andermann did not tell his co-owner, St. James, about UCAR's proposal. Instead, he commenced efforts to partition and subdivide the Andermann Tract and obtain sole ownership of the upriver portion of the tract (Tract A) where UCAR proposed to lay the pipeline.

         After St. James agreed to the partition, Andermann hired Alvin Fairburn to prepare a survey to partition the Andermann Tract. Instead of having Fairburn conduct an independent survey, Andermann attempted to expedite the process and save money by providing Fairburn with the Dornier Survey. Andermann asked Fairburn to simply retrace the Dornier Survey and subdivide the Andermann Tract into three separate tracts, A, B and C.

         Fairburn confirmed that in preparing the 2007 Fairburn Survey, he did nothing more than retrace the Dornier Survey and did not review title documents or refer to recorded surveys contained in the Andermann/St. James chain of title or the titles of the adjoining property owners, Rouillier and Calhoun. According to the Dornier Survey, the gap tract is included in the Rouillier/Calhoun Tract. Andermann and St. James' President, Paul Morton, both testified that they intended to partition all of the property that they co-owned in the Act of Partition. However, they contend they did not realize the Fairburn and Dornier Surveys omitted the three-acre gap tract and, as discussed more fully below, they claim they still own the gap tract indivision as an unpartitioned portion of their property.

         On March 29, 2007, Andermann and St. James recorded the Act of Partition and the referenced 2007 Fairburn Survey into the conveyance records. Pursuant to the Act of Partition, Andermann solely owns Tracts A and C, which the 2007 Fairburn Survey indicated were adjacent and contiguous to the Rouillier/Calhoun Tract. St. James owns Tract B, which is downriver from Tract A. The property description in the Act of Partition uses courses and distances descriptions to establish the property lines, and no longer includes language indicating Tracts A or C are "bounded above" by the Rouillier/Calhoun Tract.

         Andermann provided a copy of the 2007 Fairburn Survey to Stephen LeBlanc for UCAR's use in preparing a survey plat for the pipeline servitude. Andermann granted the servitude to UCAR on January 5, 2008, and received over $360, 000 from UCAR in return. The pipeline servitude recorded in the conveyance records on August 25, 2008, attached a survey plat based on the 2007 Fairburn Survey.

         After UCAR began constructing the pipeline and Andermann and St. James learned about the gap tract, Andermann filed a trespass lawsuit against UCAR on December 22, 2009, and filed this boundary action on January 14, 2010. Later in 2011, Andermann and St. James jointly filed an Act of Declaration in the St. James Parish conveyance records asserting ownership indivision to the gap tract.

         Rouillier/Calhoun Chain of Title

         As explained above, Michel Bergeron acquired the current Rouillier/Calhoun Tract through several transactions. When Michel Bergeron purchased the double concession lands at issue in this matter, the property description indicated the tract was bounded below by the lands of Melford Webre, the Andermann/St. James ancestor in title.

         This changed in a subsequent cash sale from the heirs of Christophe Roussel to Pierre Emile Poche, recorded in the St. James Parish conveyance records on April 7, 1943, by describing the property by using a metes and bounds and survey description. ("1943 Cash Sale"). As cited below, the property description continued to utilize the bounded below language in the prior conveyances in the chain of title:

That portion of ground, together with all the buildings and improvements thereon, and all of the rights, ways, privileges, servitudes, appurtenances and advantages thereunto belonging or in anywise appertaining, situated in the Parish of St. James, State of Louisiana, on the east bank of the Mississippi River, at about 68 miles above the City of New Orleans, measuring one arpent front on said river by forty arpents deep closing in proportion to the side lines of White Hall Plantation, with a double concession, bounded above by Villere Louviere and Dorado Louviere and below by Emile Andermann, Beginning at the point A shown on plan of survey made by H. E. Landry, C.E., dated December 2, 1942, the . . . [Emphasis added.]

         Based on this description, the Rouillier/Calhoun Tract was now defined by a survey completed by H.E. Landry dated December 2, 1942 ("Landry Survey"), which was attached and recorded with the 1943 Cash Sale. Ancestors in the chain of title for the Rouillier/Calhoun property utilized this same property description consistently in subsequent transfers, including the March 17, 2000 sale by which Rouillier and Calhoun acquired the property.[10] The parties agree the Landry Survey indicates the gap tract is not included as part of Rouillier and Calhoun's property.

         With respect to the pipeline servitudes Rouillier and Calhoun granted to UCAR in 2008, UCAR's landman, Stephen Leblanc, also approached them about providing a right of way for UCAR's pipeline along the rear portion of their property closer to Highway 3125. Rouillier signed his pipeline servitude in favor of UCAR on March 4, 2008, and Calhoun on May 23, 2008. The property description in the pipeline servitudes refers to the description in the 1943 Cash Sale. As explained above, UCAR's surveyor prepared the survey plats using the 2007 Fairburn Survey provided by Andermann. Therefore, according to these plats, as the pipeline approaches Highway 3125, it crosses from Andermann's property (Tract A) onto the gap tract which is indicated as Rouillier and Calhoun's property. UCAR recorded the servitudes in the St. James Parish conveyance records on December 29, 2008.

         As discussed more fully below, Andermann and St. James contest whether Rouillier and Calhoun granted a servitude to UCAR over the gap tract because the property description contained in their UCAR pipeline servitudes references the 1943 Cash Sale, and that conveyance attaches the Landry Survey, which does not include the gap tract. Rouillier/UCAR contend Rouillier and Calhoun intended to grant a servitude over all of the property indicated in the survey plats attached to their servitudes and that these plats included the gap tract within their property. They note that UCAR's surveyor, Glen Miller, created the plats attached to the UCAR pipeline servitudes using the 2007 Fairburn Survey commissioned by Andermann, which included the gap tract as part of Rouillier and Calhoun's property.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Andermann and St. James filed separate appeals and raise assignments of error challenging both factual decisions and the legal standard utilized by the trial court in rendering its decision to establish the boundary between the parties' properties. The location of a boundary is a question of fact to be determined by the trier of fact and this factual determination should not be reversed on appeal in the absence of manifest error. Morris v. Sigur, 584 So.2d 729, 730 (La.App. 4th Cir.), writ denied, 589 So.2d 1054 (La. 1991). A court of appeal may not set aside the trial court's findings of fact, in the absence of manifest error or unless the findings are clearly wrong. Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840, 844 (La. 1989). The Louisiana Supreme Court set forth a two-part test for the reversal of a fact finder's determinations: (1) the appellate court must find from the record that a reasonable factual basis does not exist for the finding of the trial court or jury, and (2) the appellate court must further determine that the record establishes the finding is clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous. Stobart v. State through DOTD, 617 So.2d 880, 882 (La. 1993); Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d 1120, 1127 (La. 1987).

         This dictates that a reviewing court must do more than simply review the record for some evidence which supports the finding of the trial court or jury. The reviewing court must review the record in its entirety to determine whether the trial court's or jury's finding was "manifestly erroneous" or "clearly wrong." Stobart, 617 So.2d at 882. Furthermore, the reviewing court must always keep in mind that if the trial court or jury's findings are reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, the appellate court may not reverse, even if convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact it would have weighed the evidence differently. Id. at 882-83.

         Questions of law are reviewed de novo without deference to the legal conclusions of the trial court. Power v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 15-796 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/26/16), 193 So.3d 471, 473. When legal error interdicts the fact-finding process, the manifest error standard is no longer applicable and the appellate court should make its own independent do novo review of the record. Ferrell v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 94-1252 (La. 2/20/95), 650 So.2d 742, 747.

         BURDEN OF PROOF TO ESTABLISH OWNERSHIP BY TITLE

         As explained above, Andermann alleged the boundary should be set to include the gap tract within his property line because he and St. James can establish ownership of the gap tract by means of their title and acquisitive prescription. The primary assignment of error presented by both Andermann and St. James on appeal is that the trial court applied the wrong burden of proof in determining whether they could prove title to the gap tract. Rouillier/UCAR argued, and the trial court agreed, that because Andermann and St. James claimed ownership to the gap tract, the Louisiana Supreme Court's decision in Pure Oil v. Skinner, 294 So.2d 797, 798-99 (La. 1974), required them to prove "title good against the world," that is without referring to any surveys or property descriptions in the Rouillier/Calhoun chain of title. Andermann and St. James contend that by applying this burden, the trial court rendered it impossible for them to establish the boundary by title because the only defining upriver boundary included in their property descriptions is the language indicating their property is bounded above by the lands of Michel Bergeron, the Rouillier/Calhoun ancestor in title.

         Andermann and St. James further dispute Rouillier/UCAR's position that ownership of the gap tract is at issue and ask this Court to apply the divided burden of proof generally applied in boundary actions. See Russell v. Producers' Oil, 78 So. 473, 475 (La. 1918); Roy v. Belt, 03-1022 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/18/04), 868 So.2d 209, 213, writ denied, 04-1149 (La. 7/2/04), 877 So.2d 147. Andermann and St. James contend that under this lesser burden of proof, the trial court should have compared the property descriptions in both parties' chains of titles and used the Landry Survey contained in the Rouillier/Calhoun chain of title to set the boundary.

         Burden of Proof in Boundary Actions

         The Louisiana Civil Code sets forth the standard used to judicially fix a boundary between contiguous properties when the parties cannot reach an agreement. First, La. C.C. art. 792 provides that the court shall fix the boundary according to the ownership of the parties. To prove ownership, parties can rely on their titles (La. C.C. art. 793) or acquisitive prescription (La. C.C. art. 794). If both parties rely on titles only, the boundary shall be fixed according to titles. When the parties trace their titles to a common author, preference shall be given to the more ancient title. La. C.C. art. 793. If neither party proves ownership over the disputed property, the boundary shall be fixed according to limits established by possession. La. C.C. art. 792. La. C.C.P. art. 3693 provides that "[a]fter considering the evidence, including the testimony and ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.