1. What is timber theft?
Louisiana law says:
It shall be unlawful for any person to cut, fell, destroy, remove, or to divert for sale or use, any trees, or to authorize or direct his agent or employee to cut, fell, destroy, remove, or to divert for sale or use, any trees, growing or lying on the land of another, without the consent of, or in accordance with the direction of, the owner or legal possessor, or in accordance with specific terms of a legal contract or agreement.
The person responsible is required to pay the following damages:
Whoever willfully and intentionally violates the provisions of Subsection A of this Section shall be liable to the owner, co-owner, co-heir, or legal possessor of the trees for civil damages in the amount of three times the fair market value of the trees cut, felled, destroyed, removed, or diverted, plus reasonable attorney fees and costs.
In summary, if someone intentionally steals trees from your land, the court can force them to pay three times the commercial value of the stolen timber, in addition to any attorney fees and court costs you incurred during the suit.
Check out our post on The Timber Theft Statute for more information.
2. What counts as timber theft?
There are three different circumstances under which a person’s timber might be stolen.
- Intentional timber theft-– Under this scenario, a logger, neighbor, or complete stranger will intentionally cut down trees that don’t belong to them. Under the law, this kind of timber theft is liable for strict payment of damages.
- Contract misunderstanding— Whether their claim is accurate or not, some loggers will claim that they mistakenly cut down trees that were not included in their contract. This is especially common with more valuable types of trees.
- Straying onto a neighbor’s property-– Sometimes, loggers will accidentally stray onto a neighbor’s property. These kinds of disputes can also sometimes take place along individuals’ property boundaries, outside of the commercial logging world.
Still not sure about whether your case counts as timber theft? Read our post What counts as timber theft?
3. What if the theft was a genuine mistake?
As we discussed above, a person who commits the first type of timber theft described above is liable for damages three times the commercial value of the stolen timber, plus a list of potential additional expenses.
A person who commits the other two types of timber theft, however, is responsible for a mistake made in “good faith.” What this means is that they truly didn’t intend to steal timber that didn’t belong to them.
Good faith timber thieves might still be liable for damages three times the commercial value of the stolen timber, however. If it is determined that the logger should have known, through reasonable diligence, that the trees should not have been cut, treble damages would still apply.
So whether it was a good faith mistake or intentional theft, the owner of the trees might have a case either way.
If you’ve been accused of timber theft, our post on What to do if I’m accused of timber theft can help.
4. What should I do if I’ve been a victim of timber theft?
There are a number of important steps to take if you suspect your timber has been stolen.
- First, make sure that you are documenting all important evidence at the scene. Take pictures of the felled trees, document the boundary lines of your property, and capture any other physical evidence at the scene to demonstrate that the trees have been cut down on your property without your consent.
- Second, go over any contracts or agreements you may have had. Let’s say you hired someone to cut down your trees, and they just happened to cut down a few more than you had agreed on. It will be important to show that you were explicit with your instructions, but they ignored those instructions to cut down a few extra trees anyway.
- Finally, the most important thing you can do is contact an attorney. Attorneys experienced in timber theft cases will be able to help you pursue damages for your stolen timber, and make sure you get the full compensation you are entitled to under Louisiana law.
Hire a timber theft attorney in Louisiana today
The most important step you can take to ensure you are receiving the full amount of damages you can is to contact an experienced timber theft attorney.
Davey Jones of the Jones Law Firm has the experience and the know-how to be your advocate throughout the legal process, no matter what the circumstances are. Contact Davey Jones to schedule your consultation today.