COA: Questions remain whether proper notice given after tax sale

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals, citing several questions of fact in a case involving a tax sale, affirmed denial of summary judgment for a mortgagee that sought to set aside the issuance of a tax deed.

WM Specialty Mortgage LLC issued a mortgage to Raymond Gresham on real estate in English, Ind. At issue is a 4.5-acre tract of land in which WM foreclosed but never was put through a sheriff’s sale. Due to delinquent property taxes, the land went through a tax sale, at which Marcus Burgher purchased it.

He sent notice of the sale and the right of redemption, referred to as the 4.5 Notice, and notice of his filing for a tax deed, referred to as the 4.6 Notice, to the California address listed for WM in its foreclosure complaint and the address on record with the county. The 4.6 Notice came back as undeliverable. The trial court ordered the county auditor to issue the tax deed to Burgher, who later transferred title of the real estate to Darrell and Barbara Calhoun via a quitclaim deed. WM then filed a motion to intervene and sought to set aside the tax sale and tax deed.

WM at first argued the California address was not its correct address to mail the notice, but later conceded it was. WM then argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because Burgher couldn’t prove he mailed the 4.5 notice via certified mail and he should have taken additional steps once he learned WM didn’t receive the 4.6 notice. First American was later substituted as intervenor after WM assigned its rights to the company. The Calhouns were substituted in place of Burgher because he sold the real estate to them.  The trial court denied summary judgment for First American, and the case went before the Court of Appeals on interlocutory appeal.

First American had the burden to rebut the presumption of the validity of the tax deed, but instead moved for summary judgment, claiming that Burgher wouldn’t be able to prove he complied with statute. This is not enough to meet its burden on summary judgment, Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote in First American Title Insurance Company v. Darrell Calhoun and Barbara Calhoun, Successors to Marcus Burgher III, for Issuance of Tax Deed, 13A01-1304-MI-177.

First American argued that its failure to update its address in the county records has no effect on the results of this case, citing Jones. In Jones, the Supreme Court of the United States held “that when mailed notice of a tax sale is returned unclaimed, the State must take additional reasonable steps to attempt to provide notice to the property owner before selling his property, if it is practicable to do so.” But the Indiana Supreme Court has clarified that the additional steps the state must take specifically applies to pre-tax sale notice sent to property owners and not to a party with a substantial property interest, such as mortgagees, Pyle wrote.

The judges noted there are questions of fact regarding the constitutional adequacy of the 4.6 Notice and regarding the balancing of the parties’ interests as well as whether Burgher gave notice in a manner reasonably calculated to inform WM of the issuance of the tax deed. As such, the trial court properly denied WM Mortgage’s/First American’s motion for summary judgment.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues