Archive for the ‘residential easement’ Category

Hall County Jurors Duped by Attorneys

November 23, 2008

goddard due dilig

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In July 2000 I used my savings to purchase and close on a lovely lakefront piece of property from a couple who had owned and paid Hall County taxes on the property for almost thirty years.  The property included a 30′ easement for ingress/egress and utilities.  The easement bordered our neighbors’ property and our neighbor used a separate circular driveway to access his small A-Frame cabin.

Since this was the largest single purchase I had ever made, prior to purchasing the property, I paid for a professional survey.  Through the surveying process two potential issues were identified:

  1. a quit claim deed (signed 6 months prior) existed for a 13 foot strip inside the property boundaries
  2. the neighbor had erected a shed a few months prior which encroached on the 30′ easement

My attorney called the original property owner and confirmed that the quit claim deed was legitimate.  The property owner confirmed that he had no further interest in this strip of property.  My attorney then confirmed that a letter would be sent by the closing attorney to the adjoining property owner.  The letter gave the neighbor 90 days to move the encroachment (shed).  In addition, I paid an additional amount to purchase individual title insurance.

I thought I had done everything right.  Being a believer in “the buyer beware” philosophy,  I thought I had done all of the due diligence necessary.  Once the shed was moved, I cut in a driveway, put in a septic tank, purchased and permitted a dock, built a well (since at the time no county water was available), added power and my husband built a 200 square foot house so that we could enjoy the property with our children and retired parents.

What I didn’t count on was the reaction and the political ties of our new neighbors.  Our neighbors who lived in Dekalb county and had a dock with a half sunken boat with large pieces of foam floating on to Lake Lanier (sorry  . . .I know this part isn’t important, but I  just found this whole situation offensive).  It turns out that after I closed on the property, our neighbor went to Perry, Georgia to convince the man who signed the quit claim deed that he had been defrauded.   The man who had signed the quit claim deed’s father had originally owned both our neighbor’s property and ours.

Here’s the kicker . . .the man who just weeks before “had no interest in the 13 foot strip” was, in fact a real estate attorney who now wanted to rescind the quit claim deed.  In addition, as it turns out our neighbor’s son is a Senior Partner at King & Spalding, one of the most powerful law firms in the country, and his wife works for the Georgia Attorney General’s office.

Being cautious but still believing in the justice system, I went to court working with the original owners of our property.  As we waited for our court date, the neighbor preceded to cut more than 50 trees on the Corps of Engineers lakefront property.  This is one of the worst tree cutting offenses that’s occurred in Hall County.  In her own signed statement, the neighbor freely admitted that she had the trees cut to “improve her view”.   Apparently the Corps has decided not to pursue this case . . . when I spoke with the Ranger last he mentioned something about “her son works with a big law firm”.

Before the court case began, the King & Spalding attorney bantered with the judge about a mutual friend who the Sr, Partner had clerked for . . . the handwriting was on the wall.  I watched our judge allow the neighbor’s son and King & Spalding partner, represent the quit claim signer (who now had a vital interest in the 13 foot strip) .   For 5 torturous days we watched the Harvard educated lawyer work his courtroom magic.  He placed a wheelchair-bound family member in the clear view of the jury and showed heart wrenching videos of a family picnic from “healthier” times.

Representing our interest, I was depending on a combination of the original owner’s Gainesville attorney (who had suggested he lead the case) and the Atlanta attorney, provided by my title insurance company.  On the first day of court our “lead attorney” stepped out of the lead due to some “sudden and unexplained illness“.  In 2003 we lost the 13 foot strip.  The original owner sold the strip to the King & Spalding neighbors for $15.   With no access to the original 30 foot ingress/egress and utilities easement, we’ve lost access and water to our house.   We have exhausted both our savings and appeals trying to correct the issue and paying for attorneys.

Last year, the county ran water within 25 feet of our new property boundry.  When we tried to move our water connection from a well (now on the neighbors property) to the county water, our neighbor said we didn’t have rights to a utilities easement any more.  According to our plumber the mother relayed over cell phone that she “doesn’t want those people to have water“.    This is the same person who cut the government owned trees to “improve her view“.

So here’s the latest update . . .our neighbor, with all of the Hall County approval necessary, has built a massive, 3000 square foot “guest house” on the original easement and where his shed originally stood.  He now has two homes on less than an acre of property.   Adding salt to the wound of a 43′ foot, easement, access and utilities loss,  he insisted through “legalease” that we owed him an additional $1500 to fill in our original well which was obstructing his new home site.

Despite everything that has happened I know that my husband and I have been blessed in many other ways, so I try to keep this situation in perspective.  I felt the need to document this nightmare, seems like things like this are allowed to go on as long as they’re hidden in the shadows.   When I watched the “system” work behind the scenes it was clear that the jury was being manipulated by all of these attorneys.  I have no doubt that the jurors tried to do what they believed to have been right.  It’s funny . . .right after the trial . . .a juror actually tracked me down to apologize for what happened . . .she said her son, a well-known Gainesville real estate broker explained to her that what happened, made no sense—you can’t rescind a quick claim deed on a whim.  As far as I know, there’s no prior case law where this has happened.