Jackson River Case a Draw

Post date: Oct 23, 2012 12:50:56 AM

The Jackson River trespassing case, North South Development LLC v. Crawford, was settled on October 9, 2012. On the surface, North South Development won. Crawford and Dargan Coggeshall agreed not to trespass on the river bottom, but they didn't have to pay any damages. But more significant was that the judge refused to rule that the developers had a King's Grant title to the riverbottom. This means that the case is basically a draw.

Anglers didn't win this case. Riparian owners can still harass us for wading. But it doesn't look like waders can be charged for criminal trespass. The ruling applies only to Crawford and Coggeshall and no one else.

Once the Commonwealth refused to join to the case, the advantage was squarely with North South. Since Crawford and Coggeshall weren't claiming the riverbottom was theirs, and there was no one there (the Commonwealth of Virginia being AWOL) to challenge the property claim of North South, the burden was on Crawford and Coggeshall to prove that the developers didn't have a King's Grant title. That they couldn't do (from what I can tell) because they ran out of money. The judge only ruled North South had an obvious claim to ownership, enough to win the trespassing case, but not enough to establish absolutley that they owned the river bottom.

So the fight will now move to the legislature, where I think we have a real hope for a fix. SVTU will be looking into joining a coalition to pass something like HB 934, which would legally place the presumption of ownership with the Commonwealth with the burden of proof on the landowner to prove otherwise.