In August, I mentioned the battle going on in Twiggs County, Georgia, over who owned about 400 acres of land there. The people who lived on it thought they owned it, but a guy whose ancestors had lived in the area many years ago (like, pre-Sherman-visit) but who now lives in Colorado, showed up and claimed that he owned it. An interesting twist in the story was that the county courthouse had burned to the ground in 1901, destroying all the county records. "[M]any things in the future will cause Twiggs County people … to remember the fire which occurred Wednesday night," wrote the Macon Telegraph, probably not foreseeing that one of those things would be a frivolous lawsuit.
That's what it was, according to the special master assigned to the case, who recommended in October that it be dismissed. The judge agreed, and this week he ruled that Allan Evans will have to pay over $100,000 in attorneys' fees that the defendants had to incur in order to fight his claims and keep their property.
The special master's report is over 40 pages long, so let me try to distill it. Evans' claim was based on two deeds supposedly conveyed to his ancestors about 200 years ago. He filed what we in the legal profession call "zillions" of pleadings and summonses and notices and whatnot, very few of which seem to have complied with the law or the court's rules (he represented himself), asserting that he had inherited the interest in the property and demanding that the residents vacate. The special master focused on one important problem with Evans' claim: he had almost no evidence to support it.
Specifically, there was no evidence that either of these ancient deeds had ever been conveyed to anyone in the Evans family, a real problem for somebody claiming to have inherited an interest in them. Even if they had been, the special master pointed out another significant problem with the inheritance argument: Evans' father is still alive. So if there was a valid interest to be had, he would have it, not Evans. (It appears that he either didn't tell Dad about this or that Dad, sensibly, did not want to get involved.) Among the many other reasons Evans lost were "laches"—waiting too long—and the doctrine of adverse possession, which I mention mainly to take credit for having predicted that would be a valid defense.
Conclusion: the case should be dismissed "[d]ue to the claims … having no foundation in fact, law, or equity …." Other than that, kudos, Mr. Evans.
In addition to being (hopefully) at least a little embarrassing, that finding now has significant consequences for Evans, because Georgia law allows a judge to order a losing party to pay the other side's attorneys' fees if the judge finds the case "lacked substantial justification" or there was a "complete absence of any justiciable issue of law or fact." That's the authority the judge exercised this week in ordering Evans to pay over $100,000. Possibly he did not realize that every time he filed an unnecessary pleading—and he filed lots—he might be adding to his own bill.
Evans, who did not do himself any favors when he did show up in court, did not show up in court for Tuesday's ruling. He has, for whatever reason, appealed.