Anonymous Businessman Pays to End Tax Lawsuit Forcing Elderly Couple From Home

A Louisiana couple whose house was sold because of a $1.63 property tax bill they knew nothing about have had their misery ended by a businessman who paid to settle a lawsuit with a land company that claimed their residence.

Dolores Atwood, 69, and her 71-year-old husband, Kermit, were the beneficiaries of a settlement signed Tuesday between the businessman and Jamie Land Co., said the businessman's attorney, Gary Duplechain.

"I don't even know who to thank," said Dolores Atwood. "But I'm relieved and happy that this is finally over."

Duplechain said the businessman, who wants to remain anonymous for now, stepped forward Monday after reading a media account about the couple's plight. The house was heavily damaged by 2005's Hurricane Katrina, and because of the suit, the Atwoods had not been able to apply for state storm recovery assistance. Dolores Atwood was living in a trailer provided by the federal government to storm victims.

The attorney said he could not disclose the settlement amount.

"But it wasn't a lot of money," Jamie Land President James Lindsay II told The Times-Picayune newspaper. "We've been willing to settle this thing all along."

In 1996, a tax bill for $1.63 was sent to the Atwoods at an old mailing address and returned undelivered to the sheriff's office, which sold the property in July 1997 for $1.63 in delinquent taxes, 10 cents interest and $125 in costs associated with the tax sale.

Jamie Land bought the rights to the property a month later from the company that acquired it at the tax sale. Since then, legal battles had kept the property tied up.