New York, April 26, 2022. On April 20, 2022, Carter Ledyard received a favorable decision from the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, on behalf of its client County of Suffolk (the “County”), in connection with the consolidated appeals of two judgments issued after a joint condemnation trial related to the valuation of two properties that were acquired as part of the Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet (“FIMI”) Project, a beach stabilization project undertaken by the County of Suffolk, the State of New York, and the Army Corps of Engineers to create, restore, and maintain sand dunes damaged by Superstorm Sandy along the 12.5 mile coastline of Fire Island. Carter Ledyard conducted the joint trial in 2018 and argued the appeal earlier this year. Adopting arguments asserted by Carter Ledyard on appeal, the Second Department reduced the two judgments by a total of $356,000.
Notably, Carter Ledyard prevailed on one of the most significant issues on appeal: whether, in the absence of any affirmative value-depressing acts by the condemnor, the mere announcement of a project involving condemnation is sufficient to support a finding of “condemnation blight” that would increase the damages owed to the property owner. Although the lower court had applied an upward adjustment to the comparable sales used by the property owners’ appraiser to value the property based on his conclusion that all Fire Island properties decreased in value as a result of the announcement of the FIMI Project, the Appellate Division agreed with Carter Ledyard that the mere announcement of a project is insufficient to support a condemnation blight adjustment and thus reversed the lower court’s findings of blight. Consistent with applicable precedent, the Appellate Division held that “the claimants failed to set forth any affirmative conduct by the County that unreasonably interfered with or further depressed the value of the subject properties sufficient for the condemnation blight theory to apply.”
Carter Ledyard was also successful in convincing the Appellate Division to reduce the lower court’s market conditions (time) adjustment based on a lack of supporting evidence in both cases. As a result of the Appellate Division’s modified judgments, the County is only required to pay the two sets of claimants 16% and 21%, respectively, of the amounts they were seeking. The Court also awarded the County costs against the property owners.
The County is represented in these matters by Carter Ledyard partners John R. Casolaro and Michael H. Bauscher, and counsel Lee A. Ohliger.