A two-year legal battle in which the city-parish filed suit to rescind a controversial $10,000 land sale of a prominent corner lot in Baton Rouge remains unresolved.
In terms of a projected timeline, Loren Kleinpeter, the attorney who represents land buyer Radu Cosman, says he hoped to have the matter resolved “one year ago” and says he’s unsure of whether he will take any more legal action in the matter.
“I have no prognosis on that,” Kleinpeter says. “Litigation takes time.”
Mary Olive Pierson, the attorney representing the city-parish, also hasn’t taken any recent action in the suit, saying she’s been tied up with other matters, including Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s lawsuit against St. George organizers Norman Browning and Chris Rials.
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 local contractor Radu 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 and found it to be worth an estimated $605,800.
The city-parish filed a lawsuit on Aug. 18, 2017, 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. Following a state audit that said 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 appraised amount or rescind the sale.
Pierson says she thinks it’s more likely Cosman will return the property to the city-parish.
“We can give him his money back with interest or he can add to his $10,000 enough to make up for the appraised value, but I don’t think he’s going to choose that,” she says. “That’s the extent of what can happen. The city has basically won.”
Kleinpeter says he believes his client “has more options than those,” declining to elaborate.
The last major development occurred in January when a state district judge overruled an exception filed by Kleinpeter, who argued the law allowing sellers to rescind sales doesn’t apply to government actions. The ruling allowed the lawsuit to proceed. As of August, no other developments have taken place.