(CN) – A Utah attorney must forfeit a $125,000 house he picked up at a sheriff’s sale for $329 because the house was owned by a client who owed the lawyer money, the state’s highest court ruled.
Justin Bond’s law firm sued David Pyper for unpaid attorney fees and obtained a judgment of $10,577 in 2006.
To satisfy the judgment, Bond filed a lien against Pyper’s house, which was worth $125,000.
Pyper’s home went up for a sheriff’s sale, and Bond was the only bidder, picking up the house for $329.
Pyper tried to call the law firm to arrange to pay the debt and retrieve his house. But Bonds’ firm never called Pyper back.
The 180-day period for Pyper to redeem his home expired, and he filed a petition to set aside the sheriff’s sale.
The trial court found that the sale price was “grossly inadequate” and that the conduct of Bond and associate Dale Dorius represented at least the “slight circumstances of unfairness.” The court set aside the sale.
The court of appeals upheld the decision, and the Utah Supreme Court agreed.
“We hold that the court of appeals did not err in concluding that gross inadequacy of price together with slight circumstances of unfairness may justify setting aside a sheriff’s sale,” Justice Matthew Durrant wrote for the court.
Justice Ronald Nehring partially dissented with his colleagues’ finding that Bond and Dorius acted unfairly.
“Mr. Bond presented no explanation for his refusal to return Mr. Pyper’s phone calls,” Nehring wrote. “He has no obligation to provide such an explanation.”
“Instead, Mr. Dorius and Mr. Bond were perfectly within their rights to refuse to negotiate a settlement of their judgment against Mr. Pyper and to insist that Mr. Pyper follow the proper procedures if he wanted to redeem his property,” he added.