5ASR3d239

Series: 5ASR3d | Year: () | 5ASR3d239
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TUIAGAMOA T. TAVAI, plaintiff,

 

v.

 

TU`UGAOLO LOGOTAEAO, Defendants.

 

High

Court of American Samoa

Land

and Titles Division

 

LT

No. 20-00

 

September

7, 2001


 

 

[1] Where case

involves the same parties and issue regarding land ownership and court has

previously adjudicated the land at issue to be communal land of a certain

family, court will recognize the res judicata effect of the previous

decision to reinforce the holding that the land at issue is that family’s

communal land.

 

[2] Where

possession of land is pursuant to a traditional assignment of a family’s

communal land by the family’s sa`o,

the family member in possession of the land is obligated to render tautua to the sa`o in order

to protect and preserve the family member’s right to occupy and use the land at

issue.

 

Before RICHMOND, Associate Justice, and

LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge.

 

Counsel:          For Plaintiff, Afoa L. Su`esu`e Lutu

 For Defendant, Mark Ude

 

OPINION

AND ORDER

 

Trial of this

action began on August 23, 2001, and ended the same day in remarkable and

dramatic fashion, with defendant Tu`ugaolo Logotaeao (“Tu`ugaolo”) reaffirming

her fidelity and pledging tautua (“traditional service”) to plaintiff

Tuiagamoa T. Tavai (“Tuiagamoa”) as the

sa`o (“senior chief”) heading the Tuiagamoa family of the Village of

Malaeola, American Samoa.  We memorialize

this result, and in the process will summarize the essence of the situation, to

encourage lasting effect for the benefit of both parties and counsel.

 

Tuiagamoa

brought this action to evict Tu’ugaola, a member of the Tuiagamoa family, from

a portion of the family’s communal land named “Toeleve” in Malaeloa (“the land

at issue”), based on alleged lack of compliance with her obligations to the sa`o

under the traditional Samoan customs pertaining to the Tuiagamoa family.

 

[1] Tu’ugaolo initially

defended in large measure on a claim that the land at issue is her individually

owned land.  This Court, however, in a

case involving the same parties and issue regarding land ownership, has

previously adjudicated the land at issue to be communal land of the Tuiagamoa

family.  Logotaeao v. Tuiagamoa,

LT No. 14-84, slip op. at 3-4 (Land & Titles Div. Nov. 20, 1984).

 

Moreover, she

did not pursue this claim at trial. Accordingly, we need not address this issue

further than to recognize the res judicata effect of Logotaeao and to reinforce the holding

that the land at issue is the Tuiagamoa family’s communal land.

 

[2] Tu’ugaolo has lived

on the land at issue for most of her life. 

Her possession is, however, tantamount to a traditional assignment of a

family’s communal land by the family’s sa`o.  See

Coffin v. Mageo, 4 A.S.R. 14,

17 (Land & Titles Div. 1970). 

Because of that assignment, and as member of the Tuiagamoa family, she

is obligated to render tautua (“traditional service”) to Tuiagamoa in

order to protect and preserve her right to occupy and use the land at

issue.  Id.; see also Seventh Day Adventist

Church of Am. Samoa v.

Maneafaiga, 23 A.S.R.2d 150, 154-55 (Land & Titles Div. 1993); Toleafoa

v. Tiapula, 7 A.S.R.2d 117, 120 (Land & Titles Div. 1988).

 

During the

l970s, Tu`ugaolo and her husband Aofetalaiga Logotaeao (“Aofetalaiga”), now

deceased, were strong supporters of Tuiagamoa’s candidacy to fill the then

vacant Tuiagamoa title.  In the ensuing matai title action, this court awarded

the title to the present titleholder. In re Matai Title “Tuiagamoa”,

LT No. 1394-74, slip op. at 5 (Land & Titles Div. Dec. 26, 1974).  Tuiagamoa and Tu`ugaolo differ in the role

and significance of this support, both during the pendency of the title action

and the investiture ceremony in its aftermath. 

The differences are not now, however, an important factual issue.

 

After Tuiagamoa

assumed the title, Tu`ugaolo and Aofetalaiga provided unfailing tautua to

Tuiagamoa as the family sa`o until 1983. 

Then, in reference to construction of a building, Tu’ugaolo, claiming to

own the land at issue as her individually owned land, and Aofetalaiga, as the

owner of the building entered an agreement to separate the building from the

land at issue, pursuant to A.S.C.A. §§ 37.1501-.1506, and Tuiagamoa

objected.  These actions precipitated Logotaeao,

LT No. 14-84, and the ultimate declaration of the Tuiagamoa family’s

communal ownership of the land at issue. After Logotaeao was decided, there was, in

Tuiagamoa’s estimation, a precipitous decline in the rendering of acceptable tautua

by Tu`ugaolo and Aofetalaiga to Tuiagamoa.

 

Tuiagamoa

attributes this backsliding principally to the outcome of the Logotaeao case.  He describes the lessening of tautua especially

in terms of Tu’ugaolots failures on several occasions to obtain his

permission as the family’s sa`o for significant construction or

remodeling of improvements on the land at issue, and to regularly provide

foodstuffs and similar measures of traditional support and respect.  He indicates that after Tu`ugaolo left in

1987 to reside outside of American Samoa, except for occasional brief return

visits, she essentially ceased to contribute tautua and continually offended the dignity of his office as the

head of the Tuiagamoa family.

 

Tu`ugaolo

explains her actions, first saying that she understood from the staff of the

Building Branch of the American Samoa Government’s Department of Public Works

that the sa`o’s approval

signature was not required for the kinds of construction work she had done on

the land at issue.  She further states

that until Aofetalaiga joined her outside American Samoa for health reasons in

1994, he continued to regularly provide tautua

to Tuiagamoa, such as providing traditional foodstuffs to him on Sundays, and

that since then, she has done her best to provide appropriate tautua to

him, within her limited financial resources, when she was notified of family

affairs requiring the support of family members.

 

Nonetheless,

after expressing her viewpoint on the situation, Tu`ugaolo apologized to

Tuiagamoa and reaffirmed her loyalty to him. 

She promised to obtain Tuiagamoa’s permission before she undertook any

new construction or remodeling activity on the land at issue and appropriately

provide tautua to him.  Though

Tuiagamoa then took issue with certain aspects of Tu’ugaolo’s explanations, he

accepted her apology and agreed to permit her continued occupancy and use of

the land at issue so long as she kept her promises.  Tu’ugaolo stood steadfast by her apology and

promises.  On this note, we

concluded the trial.

 

Order

 

Tu`ugaolo shall

obtain Tuiagamoa’s consent before she begins new construction or remodeling of

improvements on the land at issue.  She

shall also render tautua to Tuiagamoa to the best of her ability in a

manner satisfactory under the traditions of the Tuiagamoa family. Tu`ugaolo

shall remain in possession of and have use the land at issue so long as she

complies with her promises and fulfills her obligations to the Tuiagamoa title.

 

It is so ordered.