EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Legal Newsline) – An Indiana judge has ruled against state Attorney General Greg Zoeller in his lawsuit that alleged a real estate analysis and retrieval firm violated state law.
Vanderburgh County Circuit Judge David Kiely issued his judgment Oct. 13 in favor of LA Investors, doing business as both Local Records Office and National Profile Document. Kiely ruled that Zoeller’s office did not prove that the defendants knowingly sent writings to Indiana consumers that could reasonably be interpreted as a bill, invoice or statement of account due.
Zoeller alleged consumers believed the mailers were notices from a governmental agency requiring them to pay fees for required documents. He brought his suit under the Deceptive Commercial Solicitation Act and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
“It is clear that the Attorney General’s Office, as well as several local state offices, were too hasty in their persecution of LA Investors and should have done more due diligence before making statements to the public that were uninformed and inaccurate,” said LA Investors’ attorney Jason Massaro, of The Massaro Legal Group.
Of similar pending lawsuits in Tennessee and Washington, Massaro added, “We expect a similar outcome to that of the State of Indiana.”
The companies compile public data concerning real estate and, along with a copy of the property owner’s deed, mail the property owner what it calls a “property profile” for a price of $88 or $89.
Of more than 67,000 Indiana consumers who were sent mailers by the defendants, at least 1,700 paid for the defendants’ services.
Kiely found that the mailers didn’t violate state law. In fact, all of the envelopes displayed a disclaimer that read, “THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT.”
All of the letters also displayed a disclaimer. In the upper right hand of the first page, it read, “THIS SERVICES TO OBTAIN YOUR DEED OR OTHER RECORD OF TITLE IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANY GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY. YOU CAN OBTAIN A COPY OF YOUR DEED OR OTHER RECORD OF YOUR TITLE FROM THE COUNTY RECORDER IN THE COUNTY WHERE YOUR PROPERTY IS LOCATED.”
The order notes there are several other disclaimers displayed through the mailer.
Kiely’s findings of law included 22 allegations that he said Zoeller’s office failed to prove. Among his findings were that the mailers could not be reasonably interpreted as a bill, compliance notice or other notice of a governmental entity.
“We are confident that the victory will be restore LA Investors’ legitimacy and credibility and put to rest any misunderstandings about the nature of the product or their attempt to deceive,” Massaro said.
The 30-day window in which Zoeller could have appealed the decision has passed.
From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at email@example.com.