Tax Sale Isn’t an Arm’s Length Sale

Again on the topic of property tax assessments, the Court of Appeals issued a ruling that a purchase at a tax sale doesn’t qualify for the one-year purchase price freeze. The opinion is here. Typically when a person buys a house, the maximum tax assessed value for the following year will be the purchase price. The appellant in this case purchased properties at tax sales and argued that the assessment should be equal to the amount paid at the tax sale.

Tax sales occur when a property owner is delinquent on his or her property taxes. When a buyer purchases the property at a tax sale, the property owner is allowed up to a year to redeem the property by paying the tax sale purchaser the amount paid at the tax sale plus a percentage. If anybody is interested, the Richmond County properties that will be sold at the upcoming tax sale can be found here.

As the court noted, the purchaser at a tax sale doesn’t receive fee simple title to the property. In short, the Court reasoned that tax sales do not reflect a fair market valuation of the property and are irrelevant with respect to the statute freezing the assessment at the purchase price.

I agree with the Court’s opinion. The intent of the statute is to tax property at the fair market value and tax sales normally do not come close to bringing what a property is actually worth on the market. I am surprised the appellant went all the way to the Court of Appeals with this argument.


Ga. Court of Appeals Property Assessment Opinion

If you have been following this blog, then you probably know that one of my favorite topics is property tax assessments. Today the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an opinion dealing a blow to the Fulton County Board of Assessors. click here for the opinion

In this case the plaintiff bought a residential property from Freddie Mac in 2011 for $207,000. Pursuant to Georgia law, in the year following the purchase of the property (assuming it was an arms-length transaction), the tax assessor may only assess the property at a value no greater than its purchase price. Therefore, pursuant to Georgia law, as long as the plaintiff’s purchase was a bona fide arms-length transaction, the assessed value of the plaintiff’s house for 2012 could not exceed $207,000.

Despite this, the Fulton County Board of Assessors appraised the property at $370,000. After an appeal to the Board of Equalization the house was assessed at $340,000. The plaintiff appealed that decision to the Superior Court and eventually to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Fulton County did not consider the plaintiff’s purchase from Freddie Mac to be a bona fide arms-length transaction.  Therefore, the Board argued, that it did not have to honor the $207,000 figure. Because Freddie Mac is a government entity, the Board argued, it cannot act in its own best interest and therefore cannot meet the statutory definition of an arm’s length transaction, that requires “both parties to the transaction be acting in their own best interests.”

As a practice Fulton County disregarded the values of all sales involving government entities.  The Court noted that not only is the statute devoid of any language suggesting this policy, but that the Board’s position: “that the best interests of a governmental entity are not and can never be synonymous with the best interests of the public which that entity serves” is “contrary to our fundamental understanding of government.”

Broken down further, the Board basically asserts that a government entity is never buying or selling property at a fair market value. If true, this should be a concern to all citizens.

Thankfully the Court remanded the matter to Superior Court with the instruction to enter judgment in favor of the plaintiff and to consider awarding attorneys’ fees to the plaintiff.


Booting of Vehicles

Have you ever had your vehicle booted? Several years ago in Atlanta I came out of the hotel to my car only to find it booted. And that was after I thought I had paid the appropriate fees. It is a frustrating experience, especially if you have somewhere to be.

Apparently one man had had enough of the booting of vehicles. James Whitfield sued Atlanta and a parking enforcement company over the constitutionality of Atlanta’s ordinance allowing boots to be placed on cars. Unfortunately for Mr. Whitfield he failed to properly enter the ordinance into the record. In an opinion released today, the Supreme Court of Georgia refused to pass judgment on the constitutionality issue due to Mr. Whitfield’s failure. You can read the opinion here:

What do you think about booting cars for parking violations? Will this be implemented in Augusta if/when they install parking meters?


The Redneck Riviera

When you hear Redneck Riviera what comes to mind? The panhandle of Florida? Orange Beach, Alabama? Mississippi? Today’s post comes from a decision rendered by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. In 2012, Rich Marks, LLC applied for the trademark of “Redneck Riviera Fest” and “Redneck Riviera” for, among other things, entertainment and live music concerts.  (thanks to for bringing this to my attention, decision is here:

The trademark examining attorney denied the application primarily because the applicant intended for its goods and services, entertainment and concerts, to originate from the area known as the Redneck Riviera – a geographical location defined by the attorney that extends from the panhandle of Florida to southeastern Mississippi. Because, according the the attorney, the area is known for live music and entertainment, the mark is primarily geographically descriptive and/or geographically deceptively.

Rich Marks appealed this decision to the TTAB. Rich Marks first argued that Redneck Riviera isn’t a a “generally known geographic place”. Instead, the applicant argued, it is a pop-culture term “to describe a beautiful beach with lower-class inhabitants”.

Rich Marks next argues that Redneck Riviera isn’t a defined geographical area. Unlike “Carolina” (a state), “Old Dominion” (used to refer to Virginia), or “Nashville” (a city), Redneck Riviera does not have a boundary. Some publications refer to only the panhandle of Florida as the Redneck Riviera, while other publications claim it stretches from Florida to Mississippi. Because, Rich Marks argues, there is no definite region the mark is more like “Dixie” than the preceding terms; therefore “the primary significance of the mark is not a generally-known geographic place or location”.

The TTAB rejected Rich Marks’ arguments. The Board found that the primary significance of Redneck Riviera was to point to “beaches on the northwest Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama, and part of Mississippi.” Although Rich Marks argued at the hearing that Redneck Riviera could refer to any beach to which “rednecks” have easy access to, such as Myrtle Beach, the Board found that Redneck Riviera points to primarily to the specific region. In short, the Board found the marks to be “primarily geographically descriptive”.

Have you ever been to the Redneck Riviera? Does it refer to only the Gulf Coast? Does it also refer to Myrtle and Daytona?




Pay your pet’s vet bills

Today I was reading recently published opinions by the Georgia Court of Appeals. I read Gomez v. Innocenta case involving a dispute over a veterinarian’s bills for medical services and boarding costs of a dog. After nonpayment of the bills, the vet kept the dog in his possession. The opinion revolved around Georgia’s veterinarian lien statute, O.C.G.A. Section 44-14-490.

I have dealt, quite extensively, with the mechanic and materialmen lien statute but had not realized veterinarians had similar rights after treating or boarding an animal or pet. The statute allows the vet to retain possession of the animal until the bill is paid. If the bill remains unpaid, Section 44-14-490 allows the vet to sell or give away the animal, or euthanize the animal if a humane society is not within a fifty mile radius.

South Carolina has a similar statute found at Section 40-69-285 of the South Carolina Code. South Carolina gives the vet the right to retain the animal until the bill is paid and the right to sell the animal if the bill is not paid within ten days of notice.

It appears that some other states do not give veterinarians similar rights in the animals they treat and board. What do you think?

Please visit my law office’s website at


Grocery Store Injury

This case comes to us from the files of “just because you are injured doesn’t mean you have a good lawsuit”. In Ingles Markets, Inc. v. Carroll (a Georgia Court of Appeals decision found here), the plaintiff was shopping for groceries when a 11 year old boy ran into her and caused her to suffer injuries.

The plaintiff alleged that the store failed to monitor its customers, in this case children, closely enough to prevent injuries like this from occurring. Ingles regularly conducted sweeps to ensure no children were running around and causing potential hazards. Such a sweep occurred only 30 minutes prior to the injury suffered by the plaintiff.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court observed: “…based on her own testimony – that when she initially saw the child out of the corner of her eye, he was not running, but ‘walking fast’ – the child could only have been running a very short time before he ran into her. Thus, only a constant patrol – the type of procedure we have specifically declined to impose on proprietors under normal circumstances – could have possibly prevented her injury here.”

Readers should note that this might be a case of negligent parenting. The first footnote indicates that the boy and his parents were named in the complaint but failed to answer the complaint and defaulted.

Please don’t forget to visit my firm’s website at,




How a fake Facebook profile led to litigation

Last Friday the Georgia Court of Appeals issued the following opinion in the case of Boston v. Athearn: link.

The case involves some mischievous seventh grade students. A couple of seventh graders decided it would be fun to create a fake facebook profile for one of their classmates, a girl, they did not like.

Using the fake profile, the kids  became facebook friends with many of their classmates and teachers. Posing as their classmate, the children posted many derogatory and offensive facebook statuses and claimed that their classmate had a mental illness and took illegal drugs.

The Plaintiffs, who are the parents of the victim suing on the victim’s behalf, filed claims against the children and their parents for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. As the opinion states, a parent can be held directly liable for their child’s tortious behavior if the parent fails to supervise or control the child “with regard to conduct which poses an unreasonable risk of harming others.”

In this case, the parents were alerted of their child’s tortious actions in May of 2011. The parents did not direct the child to delete or remove the fake facebook profile but only grounded the child for a week. The fake profile remained active for 11 months after the parents were first notified of their child’s involvement in its creation.

One of the questions presented to the Court, was whether a jury could find that the parents were negligent in failing to compel their child to remove the facebook page once they learned of its existence.

The Court answered affirmatively. They found it undisputed that the child created the facebook profile with malicious intent and that the parents “continued to be responsible for supervising [his] use of the computer and Internet after learning that he had created the unauthorized Facebook profile…..Given that the false and offensive statements remained on display, and continued to reach readers…we conclude that a jury could find that the [parents'] negligence proximately caused some part of the injury [Plaintiff] sustained from [the child's] actions….”

Please don’t forget to visit my law office’s website:


Downtown Parking

In today’s paper, Augusta residents again got to read about the DDA’s proposal to install parking meters on Broad Street. link to article. You can find my other post regarding downtown parking here: link.

Reading today’s article made me wonder how the city will enforce the parking meters should the proposal pass. It stated that the private company who will install the parking meters will “handle enforcement duties for the first five years”. What exactly does that mean? Are they just writing tickets on behalf of Richmond County?

Also, what court is going to be charged with hearing appeals from the parking tickets? As you may remember, the Augusta Chronicle has reported, in an article from May discussing the enforcement of the 2 hour parking limit, that the “city has no court assigned to hear appeals from ticketed motorists, so it cannot make them pay the [parking] fines”. link

What is the point of issuing fines if they can’t be enforced?

Of course, I am sure the county will saddle the Magistrate Judges with the duty of hearing all of the parking fine appeals. I would put money on that causing the county to have to hire another judge. I wonder if Woodard accounted for that additional expenses when she stated that the parking meters would net the county around 3 million after 10 years?

Please don’t forget to visit my law office’s website:


Todd Gurley and the NCAA

The Todd Gurley story has dominated the college football landscape over the past week. My facebook and twitter feeds have been full of complaints regarding the NCAA and the rules that prohibit athletes from profiting off of their autographs. Even today on SiriusXM channel 91 a host was bashing the “silly” rules.

One of the more critical articles came from Boston Globe writer Christopher L. Gasper. You can view the article here: click. Gasper is a former Patriot and NFL writer.

In short, Gasper slams the NCAA for prohibiting athletes to profit off of their signatures, likeness, etc. Gasper makes the ridiculous claim that, because of the NCAA rule book, that a player is better off being accused of rape.

Gasper fails to realize that the NCAA has not suspended Gurley. UGA has issued the suspension. Conversely, FSU has not suspended Jameis Winston.

Gasper then goes on to make the tired argument that while UGA is selling Gurley jerseys for $100 each, they aren’t selling “lab coats worn by promising chemistry students”. This is where Gasper’s argument begins to fall apart.

Gurley’s autograph is worth as much as it is because he plays at one of the most high profile college football programs in the country. UGA’s television and media contracts help make Gurley’s name more prominent. Gasper is right when he says Gurley’s autograph would be worth the same at Tennessee, Miami, or USC. All of those schools have similar exposure to UGA. That exposure is, in part, because of the investments made, over decades, by the institutions and their conferences.

Gurley could have gone to Division III school to play football and had little to no exposure. His autograph would have been worth virtual nothing. His autograph is only worth what it is because he plays at a premier football school.

Similar to how Gurley cannot profit from his autograph, lab students who invent a profitable product or medication while using a university’s time and equipment generally do not own the rights to their invention.

Gasper’s convenient “free markets and supply and demand” is no less availing in his own world. I imagine Gasper’s own employment contract does not allow him to write freelance pieces for the USA Today or New York Times. Further, I have not seen Gasper write about the inequity of the NFL’s salary cap which limits what some players otherwise might receive in the “free market”.

Gurley is going to make millions of dollars in a few short months. UGA has provided him the stage, training, and coaching that have allowed him to showcase his abilities and put him in his current position.



Parking in Downtown Augusta

It seems like the downtown parking meter debate comes around every year. Apparently Marion Williams is now championing the idea of adding parking meters: click here. Marion Williams is the same commissioner that proposed the boneheaded “veranda concept”: click here.

The Downtown Development Authority has been pushing to add parking meters from fifth to thirteenth street. The main problem parking area I, and everybody else, have seen is around the 900 block of Broad Street where many popular restaurants and stores are located.

Why not just install parking meters in the couple of blocks around that area? Is it necessary to install parking meters throughout the entire downtown?

One of the few good things that parking meters downtown would bring is more traffic to the mostly unused parking garage that cost the city 12 million dollars.

Please don’t forget to check out my firm’s website: