Thursday, May 22, 2008

West-Richardson Verdicts In

About two hours ago, a Florida Keys jury rendered a pair of verdicts in the "condemnation blight" eminent domain cases of Florida DEP v West, et al., and Florida DEP v. Richardson, et al., for the taking of properties on North Key Largo -- where no development, whatsoever, has been allowed since February 9, 1982. For the West parcel, comprised of 22.4 acres of upland (about 40% of being mangroves and the rest hardwood hammock) and 4.4 acres of submerged land, the jury's verdict was $5,060,000. For the Richardson parcel, comprised of 4.3 acres of upland (about 1.5 acres of salt marsh and buttonwood -- wetlands -- would have been buildable in 1982) and .92 acre of submerged land, the verdict was $450,000.

These actions were initiated by the State in 1995, as "slow-take" eminent domain proceedings. Mr. Tobin and I took over representation of the landowners in 1996, and immediately filed a condemnation blight-based counterclaim for inverse condemnation. The case went nowhere until the State converted it to a "quick-take" in 2004, and acquired title to the West property for $550,000, and the Richardson property for $80,000. Today's verdicts, based on the 2004 taking dates, were 820% (West) and 462.5% (Richardson) greater than the amounts paid in 2004.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge we sought substantially more than what the jury awarded on the West property -- $8.4 million -- but the jurors apparently did not believe our proposed multifamily (condominium) development scenario would have been marketable in 1982. The 1982 market was not something they were supposed to consider (the sale was in 2004), but it appears they did. The key to this case is the trial court's April 2007 Condemnation Blight Order, that you can read by clicking on the caption of this post.

The State has indicated it plans to appeal the Condemnation Blight Order, and it probably will. We hope to get an opinion from the Third DCA, or from the Florida Supreme Court, affirming the blight order, so we will have a binding precedent that will govern all of our pending and future inverse condemnation cases throughout the Florida Keys.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 2008 Litigation Updates

There has not been a post on this Blog since mid-March, when we were headed into the 22 BUD hearings. The BUD hearings took place in March, but more on that later). The Third DCA struck Monroe County's Answer Brief in the Collins appeal, and the County filed an amended brief. Mr. Tobin and I also spent a lot of time preparing for a week-long trial in Florida DEP v. West, et al., a "condemnation blight" North Key Largo case the State filed 13 years ago.

The West trial starts May 19th at the Plantation Key courthouse. One reason it took so long to get to trial was our 1996 counterclaim for inverse condemnation, based on condemnation blight. We contended that the moratoria imposed on North Key Largo, starting on February 9, 1982, had "frozen" the Landowners' rights to develop the subject property. Eventually, the State "took" the property in 2004, and we converted our counterclaim into a Motion in Limine. Judge Garcia entered his now-famous condemnation blight order last year. The only thing left to be done is the jury trial on compensation, using the 1982 land development regulations as the basis for appraisal. In 2004 the State deposited $550,000 and $80,000 into the registry of the court in order to take title of the West and Richardson properties.

"Condemnation Blight" was not restricted to North Key Largo. It applies to most of the Florida Keys. The State has vowed to appeal Judge Garcia's decision and, assuming it does and we win, we can start applying the concept throughout the Florida Keys.