eminent domain & condemnation

BLF has extensive experience in the areas of eminent domain and condemnation.

Founding shareholder Richard L. Bazelon served as the Chairman of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia for many years, and he frequently represents property owners whose land has been condemned by the government as well as government entities in their role as condemnor. On behalf of its clients, BLF has both challenged condemnations, and also has sought to maximize the compensation that is due to the property owner.

Since 1995, BLF has been defending the rights of R. & J. Florig Holding Company, an owner of an industrial property in Conshohocken, County of Montgomery. The client’s property was condemned in 1996 by the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority. In 2001, BLF attorneys convinced the Commonwealth Court that the condemnation should be set aside. Reversing the trial court, the Commonwealth Court ruled in Condemnation of 100 Washington Street, Borough of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, 767 A.2d 1154 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001), that the condemnation was unlawful because it involved improper delegation of governmental powers to a private developer. This case represents the first modern Pennsylvania case invalidating a taking on these grounds.

The unlawful taking of the client’s property lasted for over five years, and during that time the client was deprived of many of its property rights. After the taking was invalidated and set aside, BLF continued the battle to obtain full compensation for all the losses suffered by the client. Pennsylvania courts have held, however, that Pennsylvania law provided no remedy for the client’s losses. After years of litigation, BLF attorneys won a major victory on this issue as well. In 2011, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a remedy for the client’s loss of property rights was provided under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Reversing the federal district court, the Third Circuit ruled in R&J Florig Holding Co. v. The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Montgomery, 670 F.3d 420 (3d Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 2792 (June 18, 2012), that the taking of the client’s property during the five years of unlawful condemnation was a “per se taking,” and that the client could proceed with the takings claim in federal court. The client’s damages case in federal court is on-going.

BLF also has expertise in the area of de facto condemnations, where the government has interfered with a property owner’s use or enjoyment of the property. For example, BLF successfully defended the rights of a developer who owned two parcels of land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Both parcels were condemned by PennDOT in 2001, but BLF attorneys were successful in proving that one of the parcels had been taken de facto five years earlier by the Township where the property was located. The ruling led to a settlement which included the fair market value of the condemned parcel, delay damages and attorney’s fees.

Subsequently, BLF attorneys obtained a jury verdict awarding the client damages for PennDOT’s de jure taking of the second parcel. The damages award significantly exceeded the fair market value advocated by PennDOT. In addition, the court awarded delay damages to the client from 2001 on, rejecting PennDOT’s arguments that the client was not entitled to those damages because it had, at all times, remained in physical possession of the condemned property.

BLF’s experience in this area is not limited to represented condemnees. BLF represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a condemnor in a multi-million dollar case involving a taking of an over-a-hundred-year-old seven-story building in Center City Philadelphia for the new Convention Center. The case was settled after a lengthy board of view hearing which lasted for 11 days. The experts who testified at that hearing included an architect, a city planner, a developer, construction estimators and real estate appraisers.

Representative cases:

Condemnation of Dupree Studios (Philadelphia Cty. Common Pleas, 2014). BLF represented an acclaimed Philadelphia artist, and his wife in a dispute opposing the condemnation of plaintiff's studio, leading the Redevelopment Authority to revoke the condemnation. ... Read More

R & J Holding Company v. The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Montgomery (3d Cir. 2011). BLF obtained a precedent-setting ruling that the taking of plaintiff's property title during the five years while unlawful condemnation proceedings were pending was a "per se taking." ... Read More

Oxford Valley Crossing v. PennDOT (Bucks Cty. Common Pleas 2009). BLF obtained a favorable verdict, including substantial delay damages, for a developer whose land had been condemned for a new highway. ... Read More

Condemnation of 110 Washington Street, Borough of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania (Pa. Cmwlth. Ct. 2001). BLF successfully established the principle that a condemnor cannot cede control concerning the condemnation to a private party to whom it intends to convey the property. ... Read More

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