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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Nonprofit Loses Bit of Land to Larry Hagman

(CN) - The estate of iconic television actor Larry Hagman can hold onto a piece of his neighbor's land that he mistakenly fenced in and improved.

Hagman, who starred in "I Dream of Jeannie" before carving his place in TV history as villainous oil baron J.R. Ewing on "Dallas," owned a 30-acre parcel of land in Ojai, Calif. He died on Nov. 23, 2012, at the age of 81, from his battle with throat cancer.

The actor's land sits beside a 173-acre plot owned by the religious nonprofit Meher Mount Corp., which aims to "provide for the betterment of mankind by implementing the teachings of Meher Baba."

Baba was an Indian mystic who lived from 1894 to 1969. In 1954, he declared himself "the Avatar of the Age" who has "come to sow the seed of love in your hearts."

Meher Mount obtained a welfare exemption from taxes on its land as a religious organization between 1999 and 2004.

Hagman had been occupying and improving a 0.44-acre portion of the group's land since 1987, when someone built a boundary fence in the wrong place.

In early 2011, Hagman sued his neighbor to quiet title the disputed half acre. Meher Mount fired back with a countersuit for trespass and ejectment.

A Ventura County judge ruled in Hagman's favor, and the Los Angeles-based Second Appellate District affirmed Wednesday.

"We hold that a nonprofit religious organization's status as a 'public benefit corporation' does not make it a 'public entity' immune from adverse possession," Judge Brian Hoffstadt wrote for a three-member panel.

Meher Mount also failed to show that Hagman did not pay property taxes and mosquito assessments on disputed land, according to the ruling.

"No property taxes were assessed or levied on Meher Mount's property during the years it qualified for the welfare exemption," Hoffstadt wrote. "Hagman is accordingly not required to pay property taxes on that land."

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