The Donald Lewis formed Deerfield Mobile Home Park, L.L.C. in 2005, transferring to it 5.355 acres of land which he had owned with his wife, Norean Lewis, as tenants by the entireties since 1978, retaining 1.721 acres, which was their home, as tenants by the entireties. While still married to Norean, Donald Lewise purchased another 4.93 acres, in which Norean held a marital interest. In June of 2018, after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Donald Lewis offered to sell the three properties to Christopher Murray for $1.5 million, seeking to retain a life estate for Norean Lewis in the residence. Mr. Murray instead proposed a sale of the three properties to Robert Huckabee, with Mr. Lewis paying Mr. Murray a $10,000 "consulting fee" for representing his interests in negotiating the sale. Mr. Lewis prepared an “Agreement to Sell Properties,” which provided for payment of consulting fee monthly rental of the Lewises’ residence after closing, and a transition time for Mrs. Lewis following his death. Mr. Huckabee did not, however, believe that this was a binding agreement and instead only sought to purchase the 5.355 acre mobile home park for $300,000 and the 1.721 acre residence for $750,000. Communications deteriorated between Mr. Lewis and Mr. Huckabee and that sale fell through. Through several similarly convoluted transactions, Mr. Murray attempted to sell the properties, none of which were consummated. Ultimately, Mr. Murray sought his consultation fee from Mr. Lewis, resulting in this lawsuit.
The North Carolina Court of Appeal, however, held that the "Agreement to Sell Property" was not valid, as Mrs. Lewis, as a tenant by the entirety for some of the property and holding a marital interest in others, was not a party to such agreement. Nor was this an unilateral option agreement allowing Mr. Murray to purchase the properties, as it had no specified period of time for the option and no consideration was paid for such. On the other hand, the court also upheld the dismissal of Mr. Lewis' counterclaims for fraud, as Mr. Murray, as he was not a licensed real estate agent, was not a fiduciary.
The contract and the properties may not have been the only trailer trash in this case.
For a copy of the opinion, please see: