Jury in Harvey Cedars Case Awards $300 [Corrected]

With a thank you to an observant follower of takings litigation blog, here is corrected version of a blog posted on a July 26 about the Harvey Cedars case.  The initial post mistakenly confused the plaintiffs who recently received an award of $300 in one case, the Grossiers, with another set of plaintiffs, the Karans, who also sued the Borough Of Harvey Cedars on the same theory and whose original takings award was vacated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Karan.  According to press reports, the Karans settled their lawsuit with the Borough for $1.00.

The corrected post reads as follows:

As takings mavens will recall, on May 13, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its decision in Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Karan, reversing a $375,000 jury verdict for shorefront property owners on Long Beach Island who complained that a new artificial dune created as part of a government-financed storm-protection project obstructed their view of the ocean. The project involved the taking of a piece of plaintiffs’ lot (and land belonging to many other owners up and down the coast), and there was no dispute they were entitled to compensation for the taking of their property. The issue in the case was whether the just compensation award should be reduced to reflect the increase in value of the remainder of the property, including their house, due to the economically-valuable storm protection provided by the project. The lower courts had ruled that the storm protection was a “general benefit,” rather than a “special benefit,” and therefore could not be used to offset the compensation due for the taking. The Supreme Court reversed, casting aside the antiquated distinction special and general benefits, and adopting a new standard: “when a public project requires the partial taking of property, ‘just compensation’ to the owner must be based on a consideration of all relevant, reasonably calculable, and non-conjectural factors that either decrease or increase the value of the remaining property.” The Court remanded the case so that the trial court could hold a new trial using the correct standard.

According to local press reports from New Jersey, the other shoe has now dropped.  In September 2013, according to one press report, the Karans settled their takings claim for $1.00.   Now, according to another press report in late June, 2014, a jury awarded other property owners in a similar Harvey Cedars case the paltry sum of $300, implicitly concluding that the economic benefit conferred on the owners by the project was essentially equal to the economic loss they suffered as a result of the taking for the new artificial dune blocking their view. For the property owners’ sake, one has to hope that they had a contingent-fee arrangement for this long, disappointing trip through the judicial system. The jury’s award vindicates Governor Chris Christie, who famously railed against landowners seeking windfall takings awards based on post-Sandy beach protection/restoration projects.  And now, whatever their other faults, beach protection and restoration projects can at least proceed without burdening taxpayers with the duty to pay unjust takings awards.