updated 7/18/2007 3:25:55 PM ET 2007-07-18T19:25:55

An anonymous benefactor helped settle a long-standing lawsuit in which a land company claimed ownership of a house sold without the residents’ knowledge over a $1.63 tax bill.

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“I don’t even know who to thank,” Dolores Atwood, 69, said after the settlement returned the property title to her and her 71-year-old husband. “But I’m relieved and happy that this is finally over.”

The local businessman who paid Jamie Land Co. to settle the lawsuit wants to remain anonymous for now, said his attorney, Gary Duplechain. He stepped forward after reading about the Atwoods’ plight.

Jamie Land President James Lindsay II said the agreement reached Tuesday calls for the amount paid to remain undisclosed. “But it wasn’t a lot of money,” he said.

In 1996, the $1.63 bill was sent to a defunct address and returned as undelivered. The Atwoods weren’t looking for it, because they had owned the four-bedroom house mortgage-free since 1968 and had been exempt from the state tax.

Home was auctioned off
As a result, the home was sold at a St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s auction in 1997. The State Tax Commission eventually nullified the sale, but when the Atwoods tried to sell the house in 2002, they discovered that Jamie Land Co. still had the property rights.

Lindsay argued his rights were violated when the tax commission didn’t inform him of its decision. Last month an appeals court sided with the Atwoods, and Jamie Land had been planning to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Delores Atwood said having the title will allow them to apply for assistance to help repair damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. She’s been staying in a trailer on the property while her husband, Kermit, who is on a respirator, lives with relatives.

“I’m tired of living in a FEMA trailer,” she said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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