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Baton Rouge can’t legally rescind controversial land sale, attorney for buyer says

An attorney for the Baton Rouge developer who purchased a prominent corner lot for just $10,000 at auction last year says an exception to a state law means the city-parish cannot rescind the sale, as it’s attempting to do via a lawsuit.

Loren Kleinpeter, who represents buyer Radu Cosman, filed a pleading in 19th Judicial District Court late Wednesday, saying the land sale is an exception to the lesion beyond moiety law because it was made by the city-parish in an advertised auction.

As first reported by Daily Report in 2017, the city-parish sold the 50,000-square-foot lot at the corner of Jefferson Highway and Bluebonnet Boulevard to Cosman for $10,000 in an auction at which he was the lone bidder. After news of the deal broke, the city-parish ordered an appraisal in early August and found it to be worth an estimated $605,800.

The city-parish filed suit to rescind the sale based on lesion beyond moiety, a principle in the state civil code that gives a seller one year to recover a piece of land if it was sold for less than half of the fair market value. Kleinpeter argues that the city-parish land sale is basically a court-ordered sale, which the civil code states is an exception to lesion.  

Before filing the pleading on Wednesday, Cosman offered to settle the lawsuit by paying an additional $292,000 for the land, bringing his total payment to $302,000.

Attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who is representing the city-parish, says the deal wasn’t accepted because it’s still less than half of the appraised value.

Taking into consideration a recent state audit that says the city-parish may have violated the state constitution in a number of land deals, including Cosman’s, the parish attorney’s office determined the only option is for Cosman to pay the full appraised amount or rescind the sale.

But now that an exception has been filed Pierson says the settlement is worth a second look.

“We have an offer on the table worth considering, particularly in light of the fact that they filed this exception, which you can’t just write it off,” Pierson says.

If the city-parish does not settle, the exception will be assigned a hearing. If Kleinpeter’s argument holds weight and he wins, Cosman keeps the land.

“Here’s the deal: If we’re right, the parish won’t get any more money. Zero,” Kleinpeter says. “It’s an all or nothing deal. The office of the parish attorney is backing itself into a corner.”

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