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A years-long family feud over a prime piece of Roane County property has turned costly for one local man.
According to court records, Katherine M. Mounger died owning several valuable pieces of property, including a 1,200-acre lakefront tract on Dogwood Road in East Roane County.
Two of her children, E. Jay Mounger and Katherine Mounger Lasater, are executors of the estate. They sued their brother, Charles D. Mounger Jr., in Roane County Circuit Court in 2009, alleging he caused the estate to lose out on a lucrative sale.
A jury awarded the estate $6 million in damages.
Charles Mounger, 517 Lawnville Road, Kingston, contested the judgment, but it was upheld by the Tennessee Court of Appeals earlier this year.
“Normally, the measure of damages for being wrongfully dispossessed of real property is the rental value of the property,” the appeals court said. “However, in this case, the unique facts before us justify an award of the damages resulting from the lost sale.”
Still not satisfied, Charles Mounger filed an application for permission to appeal with the Tennessee Supreme Court. His application was denied.
“The Supreme Court refused to consider the issue,” said Knoxville attorney Archie R. Carpenter, who represented E. Jay Mounger and Katherine Mounger Lasater.
According to the opinion released by the Court of Appeals, the estate entered into a contract in 2007 to sell the lakefront tract to McKenzie Loudon Properties LLC for $15.2 million. The closing was supposed to occur within 30 days of the completion of McKenzie’s due-diligence inquiry. During the inquiry, an appraiser encountered Charles Mounger on the property.
“The defendant (Charles Mounger) informed the appraiser that he owned pieces of property within the parcel and, in fact, had constructed a home on the parcel,” the appeals court said. “The defendant advised that any purchaser would be forced to deal with him, and that he would not be easy to deal with.”
McKenzie considered the situation to be a cloud on the title.
“After several unsuccessful attempts by the estate and McKenzie to settle with the defendant so that the sale could go forward, the estate filed an action in chancery court to clear the cloud on the title and eject the defendant,” the appeals court said. “The estate prevailed.”
McKenzie was given another opportunity to close on the property, but declined. E. Jay Mounger and Katherine Mounger Lasater responded by suing their brother in circuit court, alleging that they lost the sale because of his conduct. They also alleged that the market value of the property has since decreased greatly.
Charles Mounger, an attorney, represented himself during the jury trial.
One of the issues raised on appeal concerned E. Jay Mounger’s testimony that McKenzie sent the estate a letter saying it considered Charles Mounger’s claims to be a cloud on the title.
“The defendant points out that the executors stated, in response to the defendant’s request for production of documents, that no such writing existed,” the appeals court said. “The defendant appears to argue that the verdict should be reversed on this basis or that the estate should be sanctioned by dismissal of their claim against him.”
Charles Mounger said he objected to the testimony, but the transcript does not show that he objected.
“He did inform the court of his predicament in that he elicited testimony that surprised him, but he did not object, or move to strike, or move for sanctions or anything of that nature,” the appeals court said. “He merely informed the court of his predicament and moved on with his cross-examination of his brother.”
Charles Mounger didn’t comment on the case when contacted.
Carpenter said the $6 million judgment has not been satisfied.
He indicated it may never be.
“Just because you get a judgment doesn’t mean you get the money,” he said. “You got to find money to satisfy the judgment.”
The estate still owns the 1,200-acre lakefront tract in East Roane County.
“If you got about $10 million, they’ll talk to you,” Carpenter said.