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It is not necessary that plaintiff should show a title perfect in all respects; and, even if there be defects in plaintiff's title, they are not available as a defense to a mere trespasser. A prima facie title is good against trespassers.
Randy Lacombe, purchased property adjacent to Saline Bayou. A portion of the purchased property was inundated by water due to a control structure built by the State in the 1960s. Prior to Lacombe's purchase, the defendants, Shawn N. Daze, Brian Mabou, Marvin Carter, Jr., and William L. Smith (collectively, “defendants”), had erected duck blinds and a floating boathouse on the property. Subsequently, Lacombe asked the defendants to remove the structures. They refused, and Lacombe filed the instant suit alleging trespass on the part of the defendants. Defendants then circulated flyers and posted signs stating that Lacombe was endangering hunting and fishing rights in the Saline Bayou area. Subsequently, the defendants answered and filed an exception alleging that the inundated area was a navigable waterway and that the State of Louisiana (State) owned or had a servitude over the property and was, therefore, an indispensable party. The trial court granted the exception, and the State was joined as a party. Lacombe amended his petition to seek a declaratory judgment declaring him to be owner of the property. In addition, Lacombe requested that, if and only if the State disputed the boundary between the parties, the court fix the boundary. The trial court declared the boundary to be as that presented in evidence, ordered the defendants to vacate Lacombe's property and remove existing structures, and enjoined them from future entry. In addition, the trial court concluded that the defendants did trespass on Lacombe's property and awarded Lacombe damages of $ 5,000.00 from each of the defendants.
Did the trial court err in finding that the defendants had committed a trespass on the property?
The trial court summarized the evidence in its written reasons for judgment as follows:
Mr. Lacombe produced deeds, a survey, official state maps, and testimony showing he has title to the land where the defendants blinds and floating structures are located. He produced the expert testimony of Jessie Lachney, showing the defendants['] blinds and floating structure are located on land, acquired and included in the 2000 sale. Lachney used a GPS unit to locate the exact position of the blinds and floating structure relative to Lacombe's property line. The State's representative, John P. Evans, Jr., P.L.S. Chief, Titles, Surveys & GIS of the State Land Office, also testified that the defendants['] blinds and floating structure are on Lacombe's land and that the State makes no claim to Lacombe's inundated land.
Thus, Lacombe clearly met his burden of proof with regard to his title and its limits. The defendants produced no evidence that established the boundary was not as agreed by Lacombe and the State and represented in the judgment of the trial court.