Picture this: former wife sues her ex-husband for cutting and selling timber from a co-owned 120-acre timberland tract. The timberland tract was purchased during the couple’s marriage and was community property. As part of a divorce settlement, the ex-couple remained co-owners of the timberland. Thereafter, the ex-husband had the timber cut and sold – and checks for the timber sold were made payable to the then girlfriend (now wife) of the ex-husband. When the former wife found out, she sued the ex-husband, seeking treble damages (among other things), under Louisiana’s so-called “timber piracy” statute.
As a co-owner, is the ex-husband liable to his former wife under Louisiana’s “timber piracy” statute? This was the issue presented to the Louisiana Supreme Court in the case, Sullivan v. Wallace, 2010-0388 (La. 11/30/10), 51 So.3d 702. The Court concluded that he was not, because the “timber piracy” statute did not apply to suits between co-owners.