Golden City Highland Beach, LLC v. Palm Beach County, Case No. 502018CA004089
Jones Foster attorneys Roberto M. Vargas, H. Adams Weaver, and Brett T. Lashley recently prevailed on behalf of the firm’s client, Golden City Highland Beach, LLC (“Golden City”), in an inverse condemnation action against Palm Beach County (“County”). An inverse condemnation claim arises when a governmental entity takes private property for a public purpose without using its eminent domain powers and without compensating the private landowner.
Article X Section 6 of the Florida Constitution states, "No private property shall be taken except for a public purpose and with full compensation therefore paid to each owner or secured by deposit in the registry of the court and available to the owner." Accordingly, when a governmental entity takes private property, the Constitution requires that it must provide full compensation to the landowner.
Golden City owns one of the last privately owned and undeveloped waterfront parcels along the Intracoastal Waterway in Highland Beach, Florida. The case arose out of a shoreline protection project whereby the County sought to prevent shoreline erosion by placing hundreds of tons of boulders in a breakwater formation to reduce wave energy that ultimately hits the shoreline and causes shoreline erosion. In implementing its project, the County, without the permission or knowledge of Golden City, located the breakwaters on Golden City’s submerged land.
For several years the County refused to acknowledge that the breakwaters were placed on land owned by Golden City and consequently refused to pay Golden City full compensation as required by Florida’s Constitution. On summary judgment, Jones Foster successfully established that the property where the breakwaters were placed was in fact Golden City’s property and that the County was required to provide full compensation for the taking. After Jones Foster successfully established that a taking had occurred, the County quickly removed the breakwaters making the taking a temporary taking. In total, the breakwaters were on Golden City’s property for about six years and ten months.
A seven-day, 12-person jury trial was held to determine the full compensation owed to Golden City for damages caused during the taking period and for severance damages to the remainder of the property. The County argued that Golden City was entitled to $15,700 in full compensation for the taking. Despite the County’s valuation, Jones Foster successfully recovered a verdict of $425,700, plus pre- and post-judgment interest for the taking caused by Palm Beach County.