Desiring to be friendly, you may allow your neighbors to use a portion of your land in order to make their lives a little easier. You allow your neighbors to continue to use your land for some time, but now you want privacy on your property. At this point you would most likely ask your neighbor to stop using your land, but what do you do when they refuse? What do you do when your new neighbor claims ownership of the portion of land that you allowed them to use? Defending ownership rights against presumptuous neighbors was a recent issue in a case out of St. Landry Parish.
In 1989, Emery and Hazel Scrantz divorced. Prior to Mr. and Mrs. Scrantz’s divorce, they owned a single 119-acre tract of land. After the divorce, a court ordered the land be separated into three separate tracts. Emery received two tracts, a 20-acre tract, and an 80-acre tract. Hazel received one 19-acre tract. Hazel’s 19-acre tract was situated in-between both of Emery’s tracts of land. In order to allow Emery access to both of his tracts, he was granted a servitude (i.e. easement) to run his cattle across Hazel’s land. On July 7, 1993, Emery sold his 80-acre tract to his brother, the Plaintiff, Joseph Scrantz. Emery maintained ownership of his 20-acre tract. Emery and Joseph shared their land to raise cattle, and would often use the passage crossing over Hazel’s land to transfer the cattle between the two tracts.
In 1994, Hazel sold her 19-acre tract to the Defendants, Marvin and Dorothy Smith. When the Smiths first purchased the tract of land from Hazel they were unaware of the servitude. In 2013 Emery died, and his daughter, Tina Scrantz, inherited the 20-acre tract of land. At some point before his death, Emery and Marvin Smith had a disagreement concerning the use of the passage. The disagreement was settled when Marvin agreed to let Emery’s cattle pass through his tract to access the land owned by the Scrantz brothers. Marvin Smith also allowed Joseph and Emery to build a fence around the servitude. After Emery’s death, Joseph continued running cattle across the passage to the 20-acre tract now owned by Tina.