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Cenac v. Public Access Water Rights Association

851 So. 2d 1006 (2003)

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Cenac v. Public Access Water Rights Association

Louisiana Supreme Court

851 So. 2d 1006 (2003)

Facts

Arlen Cenac (plaintiff) purchased a large ranch in Louisiana that included a private canal, through which larger bodies of water could be accessed, and a boat launch onto the canal. The previous owners of the land, the Gheens, had allowed the public to use the launch and the canal for decades. Despite allowing the public to use the launch and the canal, however, the Gheens had continued to act in a way that asserted their ownership over the property. The Gheens had only allowed the canal to be used for transportation and had prohibited air boats. The Gheens had refused to allow public money to be used for maintenance of the land, although the government had sprayed the canal to control plant growth. The Gheens had posted signs indicating that the canal and launch were private property, had forbidden trespassing, and had explicitly granted permission to certain users. When Cenac purchased the property, he attempted to erect a fence blocking public access to the boat launch and the canal. A local community organization, the Public Access Water Rights Association (PAWRA) (defendants) entered Cenac’s land and blocked construction of the fence. Cenac filed a petition seeking a permanent injunction against PAWRA. PAWRA claimed that the launch and the canal had been granted to the public through implied dedication. The trial court held for Cenac for the boat launch but found that the canal had been granted to public use by implied dedication. Both parties appealed. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s decision regarding the boat launch but overturned the trial court regarding the canal, holding that there had not been sufficient evidence to support a finding of implied dedication of the canal. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kimball, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Weimer, J.)

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