Property Casualty

Published December 28, 2012

Two years ago, the town of Harvey Cedars in New Jersey had a two-story sand dune constructed in front of 190 ocean-front homes to protect them from storms. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did the construction.

In the case of Hurricane Sandy, the project worked, and none of the homes was damaged. But the 22-feet-high dunes were largely washed away. The Corps says it will restore them.

Meanwhile, there’s a litigation donnybrook under way. One homeowner, a married couple, has already won a judgment of $375,000 for loss of the ocean view from their $1.7 million home. Many other cases are pending.

After the homeowners refused to grant an easement on their property for the project, the local borough condemned part of the property. The borough is required to pay fair market value. Its expert said they should receive just $300 because the dunes benefit the property, while the homeowners’ expert put the loss at between $500,000 and $1.4 million. A court awarded the homeowners $375,000.

“I don’t think that the storm affects the court case at all,” said their attorney. “We never took the position that we are against the dunes. This is a project that benefits everyone, and why shouldn’t the property owners be justly compensated for their property?”

Source: Nicholas Huba and Kirk Moore, “Harvey Cedars homeowners demand payment from town for spoiling ocean view,” Asbury Park Press, November 27, 2012 h/t facesoflawsuitabuse, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform