Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Country Club Sues WWII Vet over Petty Property Dispute

 

Virgil Wesley has lived in his modest Kansas City area house since 1995. Now, a posh county club is suing the 86-year-old World War II veteran over the placement of his garage. According to the Brookridge Country Club, a corner of Wesley’s small garage crosses onto their property and Something Must Be Done.

Family members say Brookridge Country Club is suing Wesley for $75,000, because they allege 60 square feet of his garage is on country club property, according to a survey. “I thought somebody was crazy!” Wesley said, “I’ve been maintaining it all these years!” “He’s a WWII veteran, he’s 86 years old, he’s wheelchair bound, he has no money, no ability to hire an attorney, and they know that!” said Virgil’s daughter, Louanna Davis.

Three years ago, the country club demanded that the vet tear down his garage. Virgil’s family pooled together $2,000 to pay for the errant 60 square feet. Brookridge didn’t reply — until this lawsuit, that is. The members-only club insisted that the six-by-ten garage corner had damaged them and only $75,000 could ameliorate their pain and suffering.

I’m not a lawyer, but let me lean on my marketing experience. Is $75K worth this kind of damage to your brand? The private club will have to pay much more than that to public relations, crisis communications and advertising pros to fix this embarrassment. (Not to mention the tens of thousands they’re paying the attorneys.)

Pro tip for Brookridge Country Club: The only reason you own any land at all is because of heroes like Virgil Wesley. Let him keep his 60 square feet of garage along with a free lifetime membership if he would lower himself to visit your establishment.

UPDATE: Via their Facebook page, Brookridge Country Club has voluntarily dismissed their suit against Virgil Wesley. Ricochet gets results! (Okay, technically, they posted the news on Facebook a few minutes before I published this article, but I still take full credit for their wise reversal. Something to do with being in different time zones and the daylight savings switch, I guess.)

There are 13 comments.

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  1. Look Away Inactive

    All I can think about is “Ted Baxter” in Caddyshack.

    • #1
    • April 24, 2014, at 1:41 PM PDT
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  2. Pilli Inactive

    Who at the Country Club thought this was a good idea? Is the lawyer handling the case a member?

    • #2
    • April 24, 2014, at 1:49 PM PDT
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  3. jmelvin Member

    While the club may have had legal title to the land, the club management’s lack of discernment in pushing the issue is reprehensible. I’d tend to think if the managers really cared to ensure that their property was protected, then perhaps a lease agreement for some minor pittance ($100 for the remainder of his years) or some sort of sale to allow him the small portion of land could have been worked out.

    As you suggest Jon, I imagine the bad press will likely do more damage to the country club’s name than the old gentleman’s garage ever did.

    • #3
    • April 24, 2014, at 1:52 PM PDT
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  4. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State BluesJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This is puzzling to me. The process of obtaining a building permit is supposed to prevent you from building anything on property that does not belong to you. If the garage existed when he bought the property in 1995, the survey and title search would have identified the problem. I can’t believe an octogenarian in a wheelchair built his own garage without a permit. So how did the garage get built encroaching on country club property? 

    • #4
    • April 24, 2014, at 3:02 PM PDT
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  5. jmelvin Member

    Aha! Be careful not to believe that the permit itself actually does anything. While a permit may make the construction of a structure legal in nature, it neither physically prevents the building of a structure, or prevents contractors from doing such work without the permit. Of various home improvement projects I’ve seen in my lifetime by neighbors, friends and family I don’t think any of them were “permitted.” I recognize some places really get tough against people who dare to build without formalized government paperwork, but that is not the case everywhere.

    • #5
    • April 24, 2014, at 3:41 PM PDT
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  6. Fricosis Guy Listener

    The linked article explained it pretty well. If that garage had been there when he bought the property, Kansas’s statute of limitations for adverse possession would have run out.

    • #6
    • April 24, 2014, at 4:28 PM PDT
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  7. Nick Stuart Inactive

    You have to wonder what brainiac decided doing this now was a good idea instead of waiting 5, 10, 20 years tops? Then working out a deal with the estate come sale time.

    • #7
    • April 24, 2014, at 5:57 PM PDT
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  8. Ron Selander Member

    jmelvin:

    While the club may have had legal title to the land, the club management’s lack of discernment in pushing the issue is reprehensible. I’d tend to think if the managers really cared to ensure that their property was protected, then perhaps a lease agreement for some minor pittance ($100 for the remainder of his years) or some sort of sale to allow him the small portion of land could have been worked out.

    My thoughts exactly!

    • #8
    • April 24, 2014, at 6:53 PM PDT
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  9. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State BluesJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    jmelvin:

    Aha! Be careful not to believe that the permit itself actually does anything. While a permit may make the construction of a structure legal in nature, it neither physically prevents the building of a structure, or prevents contractors from doing such work without the permit. Of various home improvement projects I’ve seen in my lifetime by neighbors, friends and family I don’t think any of them were “permitted.” I recognize some places really get tough against people who dare to build without formalized government paperwork, but that is not the case everywhere.

     I suppose you have a point, given that it was Kansas. Where I live you cannot find a contractor who would build something as large and conspicuous as a garage without a permit; they want to stay in business. The odds of being able to get away with it are quite small; village inspectors drive around looking for that sort of thing during the building season. A homeowner DIY’ing would be even more likely to get caught, given that the work would probably take him longer.

    • #9
    • April 24, 2014, at 8:20 PM PDT
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  10. Steven Potter Thatcher
    Steven PotterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Somewhere in Kansas City the mother of a country-club lawyer is ashamed of her son/daughter. At least I would hope so.

    • #10
    • April 24, 2014, at 9:07 PM PDT
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  11. Fritz Coolidge

    Another possibility is that when the lot lines were originally laid out, the surveying technology used was traditional of long standing; but when the country club had a more recent survey, no doubt with laser technology, the line shows an encroachment. The difference between the old timey lines and the laser-based lines around here (western Washington state) has been quite remarkable, and in my real estate law practice I have encountered a few such examples with differences of 30 to 40 feet.

    • #11
    • April 24, 2014, at 10:20 PM PDT
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  12. Edward Smith Inactive

    How old is the veteran? 86?

    This matter could easily and quietly have been sorted out when the property gets sold or inherited.

    • #12
    • April 25, 2014, at 5:09 AM PDT
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  13. Jon Gabriel, Ed. King
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    This situation reminds me of my grandma’s property. She lives next door to a hospital that wants to expand its parking lot by leveling her duplex. Since she was a long-time volunteer at the hospital and was a widow in her late 80s, the hospital kindly agreed not to do anything as long as she lived in that home.

    She just turned 100 last month and is still going strong.

    • #13
    • April 25, 2014, at 7:26 AM PDT
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