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Law School Case Brief

Wemple v. Eastham - 150 La. 247, 90 So. 637 (1922)

Rule:

The banks of navigable streams belonged not to the adjacent landowners, but to the state.

Facts:

Defendants commenced operations for the drilling of a well on the bank of Bayou Pierre, between the ordinary high-water mark and the ordinary low-water mark, and between the upper and lower boundary lines of plaintiff's land. Defendants based their construction on a contract of lease entered into with the property owners. Averring that the recording of the contract of lease was a slander of his title to the lands forming the banks and beds of the two bayous within his property lines, Plaintiff brought suit to cancel the lease and to enjoin defendants from drilling wells on the land. Plaintiff contended that the two bayous are not and never have been navigable streams, and that he owned the bed or bottom of the bayou that crosses his land and owned to the thread or middle of the bayou upon which his land borders. The court rendered judgment in favor of plaintiff, recognizing his title to the bed and banks of Dolet bayou within the boundaries of his adjacent land, and recognizing his title to the bank of Bayou Pierre. The lease to the defendants was recognized as affecting the bed of Bayou Pierre, being the land covered by the waters of the bayou at its ordinary low stage. Both parties appealed.

Issue:

Was the judgment proper?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court annulled the judgment declaring defendants entitled to a right of passage over plaintiff's land from the bed of Bayou Pierre to the public road, and defendants' reconventional demand for a right of passage was dismissed as of nonsuit, reserving to defendants whatever right of action they may have to sue for a right of passage over plaintiff's land.

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