Judicial Redemption from Tax Sale

Morrison v. May, [Ms. SC-2023-0112, Oct. 6, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Wise, J.; and Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Mendheim, Mitchell, and Cook, JJ., concur; Bryan and Stewart, JJ., dissent; Sellers, J., dissents with opinion) reverses the Mobile Circuit Court’s judgment allowing Torry May, Sr. and Angela Pompey May to judicially redeem property sold for taxes.

Joseph and Yolanda Reddick, Janice Morrison’s parents, purchased 1204 Partridge Street (Lot 25) in 1955. Yolanda’s mother owned 1502 Plover Street (Lot 24) and deeded it to Yolanda in 1961. The Reddicks built a house on Lot 25, and later built an addition to the home, a driveway, storage building, and fence partially on Lots 24 and 25. In 2008, the Reddicks executed a mortgage on Lot 25 to GMAC Mortgage, LLC. Yolanda passed away in 2009 and Joseph moved to Georgia to live with his daughter. The 2009 property taxes were not paid on Lot 24, and it was sold to the State for taxes in 2010. GMAC foreclosed on Lot 25, and the Mays purchased Lot 25 from Fannie Mae on February 26, 2013. The Mays waived a survey.

On June 28, 2013, Morrison purchased Lot 24 from the State and received a tax deed. On June 7, 2018, Morrison filed suit against the Mays, seeking a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction. The Mays answered and subsequently filed a counterclaim on December 3, 2019, seeking, inter alia, redemption of Lot 24 from the tax sale. Ms. *6. Following a bench trial, the trial court denied Morrison’s injunction claims, and found in favor of the Mays, ruling they had properly exercised a right of judicial redemption. Ms. *10.

The Court explains that statutory redemption pursuant to § 40-10-120, Ala. Code 1975 requires payment of specified sums to the probate court within three years of the sale of the property which the Mays failed to do. Ms. *17. Further, their claim for judicial redemption was barred by § 40-10-82, Ala. Code 1975 because the Mays did not file their counterclaim seeking to redeem Lot 24 within three years of Morrison receiving the tax deed from the State. Ibid. The Court explains that while the final sentence of § 40-10-82 provides that, “where there is no real occupancy of the land, constructive possession follows title of the original owner and may only be cut off by adverse possession of the tax purchaser for three years after the purchaser is entitled to possession,” that provision did not allow the Mays to redeem the property because they had never held title to Lot 24. Ms. *19, emphasis provided in Morrison v. May.

Justice Sellers dissents, asserting “the majority provides no guidance to the trial court regarding an equitable remedy for solving the dispute concerning Lot 24 based on the determination that § 40-10-82 does not apply.” Ms. *21. Justice Sellers further opines that quieting title to Lot 24 in the Mays on the conditions imposed by the trial court was an appropriate equitable remedy.

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