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Berthelot v. Pendergast

989 So. 2d 798 (2008)

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Berthelot v. Pendergast

Louisiana Court of Appeal

989 So. 2d 798 (2008)

Facts

Victoria Pendergast (plaintiff) was a widow who owned an undivided one-half interest in a home and held a usufruct over the other undivided one-half interest. Mrs. Pendergast’s stepchildren, Harold Pendergast Jr. and Margaret Pendergast Adolph (defendants), were the naked owners of the usufruct and would own the one-half interest that was the subject of the usufruct after the usufruct terminated upon Mrs. Pendergast’s death. The home had developed severe foundation problems over a number of years. The slab was sagging and concave in the middle, there were cracks throughout the property in walls and floors, and some of the walls were hanging from the ceilings and had begun to separate from the floors. Mrs. Pendergast’s son, Joseph Berthelot, filed suit on Mrs. Pendergast’s behalf under a power of attorney against her stepchildren to force partition of the property. Ms. Adolph in turn sued Mrs. Pendergast, alleging that she had failed to promptly repair a broken sewer line and that this failure had caused the foundation problems and amounted to a dereliction of Mrs. Pendergast’s duty as the usufructuary to be a prudent administrator of the property. After conflicting evidence was presented, the trial court determined that the ground subsidence in the area, not the broken sewer pipe, was the cause of the foundation problems. The trial court dismissed Ms. Adolph’s claim against Mrs. Pendergast, and Ms. Adolph appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Chehardy, J.)

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