Practice Highlights - July 19, 2023

Significant Recovery in Inverse Condemnation Dispute with Palm Beach County

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.

About Roberto M. Vargas

Rob Vargas, vice chair of Jones Foster’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution team, practices statewide in the areas of complex commercial litigation, business torts, real property litigation, and eminent domain. Rob advises local and national clients on a variety of business disputes, including trade secrets, confidentiality agreements, noncompete agreements, business contracts, tortious interference, and breaches of fiduciary duties.  He also advises property owners throughout Florida in all eminent domain-related proceedings.  He practices before Florida state and federal courts at the trial and appellate levels.

Rob Vargas

About H. Adams Weaver

Adams Weaver has maintained a statewide practice in eminent domain and related land use litigation for over 35 years. He has successfully litigated numerous complex commercial and contested matters. Adams is responsible for one of the largest condemnation awards in the history of Florida in the amount of $110,000,000 and has been counsel of record in cutting-edge cases impacting Florida law. In addition, Adams represents businesses in a wide variety of industries including industrial and agricultural properties, owners of large vacant properties, and individual homeowners.

H Adams Weaver

About Brett T. Lashley

Brett Lashley is a member of Jones Foster's Litigation & Dispute Resolution team. He focuses his practice in the areas of complex civil litigation and general commercial litigation with an emphasis on employment, real estate, and contractual disputes. Brett represents individuals and businesses in matters involving alleged misappropriation of trade secrets, confidentiality agreements, the enforcement of noncompete agreements, and specific performance involving real property and commercial contracts.

Brett Lashley 7660 copy web

About Jones Foster

Jones Foster is a commercial and private client law firm headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida. Established in 1924, the Firm has served as an integral part of South Florida’s growth and prosperity for nearly a century. Through a relentless pursuit of excellence, Jones Foster delivers original legal solutions that help clients, colleagues, and the community to move forward. Notably, the majority of the firm’s Shareholders have received the designation of Board-Certified Specialist by The Florida Bar in their specific practice area. The firm’s attorneys focus their practice in Real Estate, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Private Wealth, Trusts & Estates, Corporate & Tax, and Land Use & Governmental. For more information, please visit