Friday, December 6, 2013

Jones v. Flowers case brief

Jones v. Flowers case brief summary
547 U.S. 220 (2006)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner property owner sued respondent state official and property purchaser, alleging that failure to provide him notice of a tax sale and his right to redeem resulted in the taking of his property without due process. The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of respondents. Certiorari was granted to determine if the government had to take additional reasonable steps when a notice of a tax sale was returned undelivered.

CASE FACTS
The owner purchased a house and lived in it until he separated from his wife. He paid his mortgage each month for 30 years and the mortgage company paid his property taxes. After the mortgage was paid off, the property taxes went unpaid, and the property was certified as delinquent. Two notices, one for the tax delinquency and the other for an impending tax sale, were sent by certified letter to the address, but both were returned unclaimed.

DISCUSSION

  • The Court held that as mailed notice of a tax sale was returned unclaimed, the State should have taken additional reasonable steps to attempt to provide notice to the property owner before selling his property since it was practicable to do so. 
  • Although the State may have made a reasonable calculation of how to reach the property owner, it had good reason to suspect when the notice was returned that the owner was no better off than if the notice had never been sent. 
  • Although Ark. Code Ann. § 26-35-705 provided strong support for the argument that mailing a certified letter to the owner was reasonably calculated to reach him, it did not alter the reasonableness of doing nothing more when the notice was promptly returned unclaimed.

CONCLUSION
The judgment of the Arkansas Supreme Court was reversed.


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