Inverse Condemnation Claim Lost by Lot Merger

​On June 23, 2017, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Murr v. State of Wisconsin. This lawsuit involved a claim for inverse condemnation. The plaintiffs contended that certain land use regulations had reduced the value of their property.

Plaintiffs are the owners of two contiguous lots. The regulations prohibited owners of adjacent lots from selling their lots as separate building sites unless each lot contained at least one acre of developable land. Because the plaintiffs’ two lots did not each contain one acre of developable land, the plaintiffs effectively had to merge their two lots into a single lot in order to build a house. Plaintiffs, therefore, claimed the land use regulations caused them to incur an economic injury by reducing their land holdings to a single buildable lot.

For an inverse condemnation claim based on the application of a land use regulation to be viable a land owner must prove they have been deprived of all economically beneficial or productive use of their land. Alternatively, a property owner must prove the regulation interfered with their investment-backed expectations for their property. It is difficult to prove either one of those elements of adverse economic impact.

In Murr, the Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiffs had not proved their case. The basis of that decision was the Court’s conclusion that the plaintiffs’ two contiguous lots should be evaluated as a single parcel of property. Once those lots were merged, it was impossible for the property owners to establish they lost all economically beneficial or productive use of their land because they still owned a buildable and valuable lot. Plaintiffs were incapable of proving their reasonable economic expectations had been thwarted because, despite the land use regulation, they could develop their property as a home site.

Murr is likely to have an impact on regulatory based inverse condemnation claims in New Jersey. It is not uncommon for property owners to hold contiguous lots in a single name. Issues arise when government approvals are sought for one or more of those lots. This situation frequently occurs when adjacent lots are sold to a purchaser who wants to develop and resell the lots for more than one house.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of Murr v. State of Wisconsin on eminent domain, condemnation, inverse condemnation or land use and zoning regulations, please call William J. Wolf, Esq. at 732-363-0666 or send an email to wwolf@bathweg.com

Mr. Wolf has represented clients in condemnation and inverse condemnation cases.
Mr. Wolf is a Senior Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, he has been designated as a Super Lawyer and AV Preeminent® for many years.  Mr. Wolf has been certified by the American Institute of Appellate Practice as an appellate specialist.

Photo by Abdul Zreika on Unsplash

Beware Of The Other Current That Causes Drowning

As was tragically evident from the recent death of a young girl in a lagoon in Toms River, New Jersey, water and electricity make a deadly combination. That child died when she was electrocuted while swimming in a lagoon.

According to published reports, that swimmer came in contact with a portion of a metal boat lift. It is believed that electric current used that metal object as a pathway into the water.

According to the Electric Drowning Prevention Association, contact with an electric current on a metal object that protrudes into water can cause muscle paralysis that can lead to death by drowning. The presence of electricity in the water can also lead to the injury or death of people who attempt to rescue the drowning swimmer.

Frequently, the source of the electricity is related to a power source on a dock or a boat moored in a marina. There is, however, an alternative source that can be easily overlooked. That potential source is known as stray current.

Stray current refers to the flow of electrical current into the water, ground or metal objects. That flow of current can be caused by an imbalance in an electrical system or flaws in wiring or electrical components.

The source of stray current can be located far from an object, a swimming pool, or a body of water that appears to be the site at which a person experienced a shock. As a result, stray current as the potential source of an accident or a fatality can be easily overlooked. Thus, when an injury is caused by electrical shock, it is sometimes necessary to expand the scope of the investigation to other areas on or off the location at which the accident occurred.

William J. Wolf, Esq. has represented clients in cases involving stray current and electromagnetic fields. In each instance, Mr. Wolf was able to obtain favorable jury verdicts for his clients.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of stray current, electromagnetic fields, electrocution or other personal injuries, please call William J. Wolf, Esq. at 732-363-0666 or send an email to wwolf@bathweg.com.

Mr. Wolf is a Senior Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, he has been designated as a Super Lawyer and AV Preeminent® for many years.  Mr. Wolf has been certified by the American Institute of Appellate Practice as an appellate specialist.

LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA IN NEW JERSEY

The statewide debate over the legalization or decriminalization of recreational marijuana continues to advance at a rapid pace.  According to recent polls conducted by New Jersey Advanced Media, upwards of 90% of its readers believe marijuana should be legalized.  Despite an overwhelming majority of people in New Jersey who support the legalization of marijuana, and the recent proposal of a bill by State Senator Nicholas Scutari that would do just that, Governor Christie continues to rebuke the idea as “beyond stupidity.”

As Governor Christie’s final term in office draws to an unpopular end, his opinion and disparaging comments directed at marijuana supporters have become less and less meaningful. Time will soon tell how the next administration deals with this pressing issue, but it appears that change is imminent.  Democratic candidates Ambassador Phillip Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Jim Johnson support legalization of marijuana while Senator Ray Lesniak supports decriminalization.  Republican candidates Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli support decriminalization.

In the meantime, however, on May 15, 2017, Senator Scutari introduced a bill that would make recreational marijuana legal in New Jersey.  Senator Scutari’s proposed measure would do the following:

  • Legalize individual possession for those over the age of 21 of up to one ounce of marijuana; 16 ounces of products infused with the drug in solid form; 72 ounces in liquid form and seven grams of marijuana concentrate.​
  •  Create a Division of Marijuana Enforcement within the state Department of Law and Public Safety and direct that agency to set up regulations and licensure programs for growers and distributors within a year of the bill’s passage.
  •  Decriminalize possession of up to 50 grams immediately, limiting fines to $100 until the regulated industry gets up and running and creates a system for marijuana offenders to expunge their criminal records.
  • Set up an escalating sales tax on marijuana starting at seven percent in the first year, 10 percent in the second and jumping five percent each year thereafter to a final tax rate of 25 percent.
  • ​Prohibit growing marijuana at home and ban its use in public.
The process of passing a bill is time consuming and includes legislative hearings and votes in the Senate and Assembly.  If a bill legalizing marijuana is passed, Governor Christie has vowed to veto it. Nevertheless, by the time our next governor is sworn in, Senator Scutari’s bill may be waiting for his or her signature.  Until then, we can all expect that the debate over the legalization of recreational marijuana will continue, energizing supporters and objectors alike.

​If you have a question about your rights as a medical marijuana user or questions about legal issues that may arise if recreational marijuana is legalized or decriminalized in New Jersey, please feel free to contact Ryan S. Malc, Esq. at 732-363-0666 or at Rmalc@bathweg.com.