Insurance is too late after tax goof

Dana Wilkie. COPLEY NEWS SERVICE. The San Diego Union - Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: March 28, 2005.

See related article: Lakeside man bought land that doesn't exist (Nov 29, 2004)

Justice delayed

Fred Gruner, the Lakeside man who for years paid taxes on land that didn't exist – thanks to a federal mapping error – apparently had a type of insurance that protects him from such goofs.

But Gruner did not live to learn this: He died recently before he could resolve his long-standing dispute with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over his 23 acres of mountaintop Lakeside land that exists on paper, but not in reality.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tried unsuccessfully last year to rectify the government mistake that threatened to rob Gruner of the retirement income he had banked on and hoped to leave to his wife.

Asked during an interview last year if he had title insurance – which is supposed to protect landowners from mistakes or disputes involving land ownership – Gruner said only that "these insurances aren't worth the powder to blow 'em to kingdom come."

After Gruner's death, a lawyer with Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. told Copley News Service that Gruner did, indeed, have title insurance and that the company was working with Gruner's widow, Dolores. Privacy laws prevented the lawyer from revealing whether the title insurance might rectify the mapping area, and Dolores Gruner could not be reached.

Dana Wilkie of CNS covers San Diego and California issues in Washington.

See related article: Lakeside man bought land that doesn't exist (Nov 29, 2004)


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