Woman sues homeowner association, Yuma sheriff
Article Courtesy of The YumaSun.Com
November 29, 2002 

A Yuma woman whose home was auctioned off to pay homeowner fees has filed a $4 million federal lawsuit naming Sheriff Ralph Ogden and the Desert Air Mobile Estates Homeowners Association.

In the lawsuit, filed in Phoenix U.S. District Court, Catherine Painter alleges she has suffered "12 years of mental anguish, harassment, ostracism and threats from the Desert Air Mobile Estate Homeowners Association of Yuma, Arizona."

Painter alleges stress caused by the legal fight "added to my failing health" and believes it caused the early death of her husband, Walter. Walter Painter died Oct. 4, 1996, at 88 years old.

Difficulties between the association and Painter and her husband began just weeks after the couple moved into a home at 11257 Ocotillo Lane, which is located in the Desert Air Mobile Estates near the Foothills.

When the couple bought the home, they weren't aware that there was a homeowners association for the mobile home subdivision, according to Painter. She alleges the salesman never told her or her husband about any association.

They moved into the home in September 1991. Painter said two or three weeks later, when they received paperwork for the home from the title company, they discovered that the homeowners association existed. She said if they had known about the association, they would never have bought the home.

By the time they received the paperwork, she said, the deal was done, since they paid $65,000 in cash for the house and the lot.

Since they were not informed about the homeowners group until after the sale was complete, the Painters refused to pay fees levied by the association.

After several court cases spanning more than a decade, the home was auctioned off by the sheriff's office to pay for the fees. Painter said the home, now worth $70,000, sold for only $27,000.

In the lawsuit, Painter claims during the foreclosure sale, as well as during other past incidents, she was mistreated by deputies. Those claims include use of excessive force, breaking the screen door of her home and threats to arrest her, throw her in jail and strip her, according to the lawsuit.

When contacted by The Sun, Sheriff Ogden said the Yuma County Attorney's Office is preparing a legal answer to the claims made by the lawsuit. He declined further comment.

Yuma attorney Steve Shadle, whose firm represented the Desert Air Mobile Estates Homeowners Association in the foreclosure proceedings, said he filed his answer Monday. In his answer, Shadle said he asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed on the grounds that a federal court has no jurisdiction in the matter.

Shadle was one of two attorneys named in the lawsuit. The other is Pamela Walsma, the attorney in the law firm who actually worked on the foreclosure paperwork. Shadle said he never worked on the matter.

"It's a sad case. I feel sorry for Mrs. Painter, but all we did is handle a case for our client," Shadle said.

Painter didn't use a lawyer to file her federal case. Instead, she filed the case herself, which is called in propria persona, and therefore is representing herself.

In the lawsuit, she asks for $2 million in punitive damages from the officers and directors of the Desert Air Mobile Estates Homeowners Association and another $2 million from Ogden.