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Recorder of deeds ...

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

A federal lawsuit that began more than a year ago is slated to be heard Oct. 26. The case of Christian County Land Title Company, doing business as General Land Title Company, vs. Linda Montgomery, the county commission and five land title companies, is set for trial before a judge.

General Land Title, owned by Jimmie Bell, filed the federal lawsuit over availability of records in the Recorder of Deeds' office. At that time, the five title companies participated in the Greene County Land Title Association, which maintained a photocopier and microfilm machine in the recorder's office. This allowed those companies access to records more quickly than non-member companies, Bell said in a previous interview.

The cost per copy for the members of the association was also substantially different from what General Land Title paid, said Jay Kirksey, attorney for the plaintiff. The equipment has since been taken out of the recorder's office, and the microfilm is processed by a third party and sold to title companies.

Kirksey said that even after the machines had been removed, the damage from the previous "preferential treatment" had already occurred.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for what occurred during that period when the machines were in the recorder's office. Kirksey said the plaintiff also incurred damages because Linda Montgomery interfered with a relationship between General Land Title and Hogan Land Title in which Hogan provided General with daily information from the recorder's office at a fee General paid directly to Hogan. Montgomery, Kirksey said and the lawsuit stated, met with the principals of Hogan Land Title to have that arrangement stopped.

Kirksey said the damages the plaintiff seeks are nominal, and even if the playing field is level with the association's machines having been removed, the plaintiff has "done the right thing."

"We know, and the judge in this case has already stated in a previous order, that there was disparate treatment. We did the right thing in taking action to get that disparate treatment stopped," Kirksey said.

Ted Johnson, attorney for the defendants, said plans were underway prior to the lawsuit to provide daily microfilm to anyone who desired it. Those plans have come to fruition.

"Since daily film is now a reality, the Greene County Land Title Association chose to remove its equipment because it was not needed anymore. That was not a function of Linda Montgomery or of this lawsuit, but was a function that they were not needed there anymore," Johnson said.[[In-content Ad]]

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