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Article 3453 of the Revised Civil Code reads as follows: The rights, which are peculiar to the possessor in good faith, are: 1) The right which such a possessor has to gather for his benefit the fruits of the thing, until it is claimed by the owner, without being bound to account for them, except from the time of the claim for restitution. 2) The right which such a possessor has, in case of eviction from the thing reclaimed, to retain it until he is reimbursed the expenses he may have incurred on it. On the other, Article 3451 of the same code reads: The possessor in good faith is he who has just reason to believe himself the master of the thing which he possesses, although he may not be in fact, as happens to him who buys a thing which he supposes to belong to the person selling it to him, but which, in fact, belongs to another. Lastly, Article 3436 of the same code reads: To be able to acquire possession of the property, two distinct things are requisite: the intention of possessing as owner and the corporeal possession of the thing.
Plaintiff Falgoust owned a tract of land in the Vacherie Settlement, St. James parish, La. In September 1932, she gave defendant John William Inness, who was married to her adopted daughter, permission to erect a building for the purpose of operating a garage and filling station on a part of her land adjacent to the public road. Defendant constructed a garage and operated it until a written notice to vacate was served upon him through the plaintiff’s attorney after the defendant’s marital relationship deteriorated. Defendant refused to comply with the demand. Hence, this suit was instituted for the purpose of compelling him to vacate the property and remove all buildings which he had erected thereon, and for the sum of $ 10 per month as rental beginning on the date on which the notice to vacate was served and continuing as long as the property was occupied and failed to remove the buildings. The defendant had been in possession for almost three years, but because he failed to establish his claim regarding the term, the plaintiff owner, who argued that the term was indefinite, prevailed. The court ruled in favor of plaintiff on the main demand ordering the defendant to vacate the property. The defendant sought reimbursement for the building as a possessor in good faith. Plaintiff’s claim for rent was rejected as was defendant's re-conventional demand. From this judgment, defendant appealed.
Was the defendant a possessor in good faith?
The court concluded that the defendant was not a possessor in good faith under articles 3436, 3451, and 3453 of the Revised Civil Code. The court explained that under the articles, the defendant was not a possessor at all because he did not possess the land as owner. The court ruled that the status of his claim involved the recognition of the plaintiff owner's legal possession and true ownership. The best that could be said was that the defendant had been given a right to erect the building on plaintiff’s property and to keep it there for a reasonable time, and the court considered three years as a reasonable period. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment and dismissed the re-conventional demand.