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COA orders court grant petition to set aside tax deed

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a trial court’s reasoning in denying a petition to set aside a tax deed that a county auditor was excused of the duties imposed under statute because compliance wouldn’t have resulted in a property owner actually receiving notice of a tax sale.

In Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Grant and Blackford Counties v. M Jewell, LLC, Auditor of Grant County, Indiana and Treasurer of Grant County, Indiana, 27A05-1211-MI-593, Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. of Grant and Blackford Counties appealed the denial of its motion to set aside a tax deed issued to M. Jewell LLC on farm property Farmers Mutual was delinquent in paying taxes on. The auditor’s records on the property incorrectly listed Farmers Mutual’s name, and the company did not update its mailing address with the auditor when its P.O. Box was closed.

The auditor sent by certified mail and first class mail notices of the tax sale on the property to Farmers Mutual, but those came back undelivered. The auditor’s office did not then perform a search for a possible address for the company, as required under I.C. 6-1.1-24-4.

The trial court noted that the auditor had not carried out the duties imposed under statute, but determined that the failure was excusable because compliance with the statute would not have resulted in Farmers Mutual actually receiving notice.

“Putting aside the question of whether the auditor’s office would have discovered an alternate address for Farmers Mutual had it performed the requisite search, we cannot agree that noncompliance with the statute’s requirement that the auditor’s office search its records may be excused if it is later determined that such a search would have been fruitless,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote.

The trial court also concluded that Farmers Mutual was not entitled to have the tax deed set aside due to its failure to comply with its statutory obligation to notify the auditor’s office of its correct address.

“Indeed, if we were to adopt such an approach, the requirement that the auditor’s office search its records for a more accurate or complete address in the event that the pre-tax sale notices are returned due to an incorrect or insufficient address would be meaningless; this is so because the very fact that the mailings have been returned means, in most cases, that the property owner has failed to provide a correct address,” the judge continued.

The COA ordered the lower court to grant Farmers Mutual’s petition.
 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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