Several years ago, a client requested that I consider a proposed case involving a real estate transaction that had gone bad. My client and his partner owned the real estate parcel as equal tenants in common. His partner later sold his ½ interest in the property to a 3rd-party, known hereafter as “co-owner”. Thereafter, my client lost all of his property interest rights in the valuable parcel located in the City of Detroit due to some actions and or inactions as were taken by the co-owner of such parcel. As a result, the co-owner ended up owning the entire parcel.
I knew that I would have to do a lot of work to have any chance at victory in such case. In 2017, I paid a local title company to find, retrieve and copy all relevant documents, as to the lost valuable property, for possible use in my potential law suit. The Title Company found and produced a few thousand pages, relating to the property’s history, which essentially told the story on how the events unfolded.
After reviewing the documents, it became clear to me that the co-owner had never recorded his interest in the property, as had been acquired by way of a Quit Claim Deed. Although this co-owner had purchased a ½ ownership interest in the property from my client’s former partner, such acquired interest was never recorded so as to show all interested persons that the co-owner was actually an “owner.”
As part of the scheme, the co-owner had all of the property tax bills sent directly to him. Tax bills were not sent to my client and the responsibility for payment, up to a point, was on the former partner and the new co-owner. The co-owner, intentionally, it seems, ignored the tax bills and the property was later subject to foreclosure by the Wayne County Treasurer. Because the co-owner did not record his interest in the property, he was able to “purchase” the property at the foreclosure sale. Had he properly recorded his interest in the property he would not have been able to purchase it at such tax sale but would have lost such property - absent an agreed upon payment plan for the back taxes.
Extensive research was commenced for such case and theories developed for potential success. I knew that this case was not going to be easy and that success could only come with a lot of hard work. I first went after and sued the County of Wayne and attempted to have the Foreclosure sale reversed. The County would not budge and would not cooperate and ultimately the trial court denied such relief. I then went after the co-owner and sent him (his attorney) detailed discovery requests including interrogatories and requests for production of documents – all needed to prove my case. The defendant, however, tried to frustrate all such discovery efforts and produced little or nothing in response to my discovery requests. The Court, during that period, had ordered each side to produce and file a Witness / Exhibit List. We filed our detailed exhibit / witness list but the other side (defendant) did not. After defendant failed to produce proper responses to our interrogatories and requests for production of documents, we filed a Motion to Compel production of same. We got a further response from the co-owner, but it was largely non-responsive. The Motion for an Order to Compel proper responses was re-filed but, again, not much was produced by the defendant.
Ultimately, it was determined that depositions should be taken of the co-owner and his wife, who had placed a substantial, but in my view, a fake mortgage lien on such property. Neither the co-owner nor his wife appeared at the scheduled deposition in December 2018. Calls were made to the co-owner’s attorney, but no one answered.
Enough was enough. A motion was filed in the Circuit Court seeking judgment against the co-owner for the relief sought in the complaint filed therein. The Judge requested that all of the discovery requests be attached as a supplement to the motion as well as the responses to same. Ultimately the court agreed to such request and my client was able to regain his ½ property interest in the parcel. Diligence was rewarded.