Union County Property Owner Wins Verdict vs. NJDOT in Eminent Domain Case

The law firm of Stark & Stark announced that it has obtained a verdict of $750,000 for property owner 399 Route 22, LLC, in Hillside, NJ, whose land was condemned by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). The NJDOT initially argued that the amount required to justly compensate the owner was only $40,000, but increased the offer to $90,000 shortly before trial.

The property owner was represented by Timothy P. Duggan, Esq., a shareholder with Stark & Stark, headquartered in Lawrenceville, who is a leading authority in eminent domain law in New Jersey. Mr. Duggan offered the testimony of an expert engineer and planner, along with an appraiser, in defending the property owner’s rights and demanded $1,080,000 in just compensation.

“The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property for a public use, providing it pays just compensation,” said Mr. Duggan. “However, in this case, the compensation that the NJDOT was originally offering was far from just.”

The case involved a property on Route 22 in Hillside that was used as a car dealership. In 2017, the NJDOT filed a condemnation action seeking to take a 5-foot right of way along the front of the property. Mr. Duggan argued that since the taking of the land prevented use of the front of the property to display vehicles, the amount required for just compensation was substantially higher than the initial offer.

The NJDOT countered that it did not believe the existing parking of the display vehicles was lawful for several reasons and therefore could not support a claim of damages for its loss. However, the property owner argued that parking of display vehicles was legal—and that any loss of display spaces caused by the taking of the frontage along the highway was compensable.

Following a trial that lasted five days, the jury entered a verdict of $750,000 as the award of just compensation, a notable result.

“At Stark & Stark, we are committed to upholding the rights of property owners in all variations of condemnation cases. The government may be a large and powerful entity, but each and every property owner deserves justice, and we are proud to have achieved that in this case,” Duggan concluded.

About Stark & Stark:
Since 1933, Stark & Stark has developed innovative legal solutions to meet our clients’ needs. More than 100 attorneys, 30 practice areas, and a philosophy of putting the law to work for our clients is the basis from which we build and maintain our practice. Boasting one of the oldest law practices in New Jersey, Stark & Stark offers a full range of legal services for businesses and individuals. After more than 85 years, our attorneys continue to deliver practical, efficient solutions to clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and throughout the United States. Our attorneys are supported by a staff in excess of 200, all of whom are dedicated to providing the highest level of service to each client. Visit www.stark-stark.com for more information.

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