NJ, after offering $40K for property, ordered to pay $750K verdict
HILLSIDE — A landowner on Route 22 in this township won a $750,000 court verdict after the state of New Jersey offered to pay just $40,000 for a slice of a car dealership's roadside property.
The state Department of Transportation in 2017 condemned part of the land facing the highway at 399 Route 22 in order to make room for the Bloy Street Bridge reconstruction project. In return, the state offered the owners $40,000.
The business, however, believed they were owed far more because the piece of property that state took was being used to display cars for sale.
The state then increased its eminent domain offer to $90,000 but the property owners instead sued for $1 million.
“The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property for a public use, providing it pays just compensation. However, in this case, the compensation that the NJDOT was originally offering was far from just," Timothy P. Duggan, attorney with the Lawrencevill firm Stark & Stark, said Tuesday in a written statement announcing the verdict.
A spokesman for the DOT declined to comment on the case.
The condemnation took a 5-foot right of way alongside the highway next to M Sport Motor Cars. The state argued that the land they took was worth very little because the property was too narrow to be legally used for parking. The property owners, however, pointed out that they weren't using the land for parking but to display their inventory to traffic on the busy highway.
After a five-day trial, the jury returned a verdict with a judgment that was more than eight times the state's last best offer before trial.
The $10.7 million Route 22 Bloy Street Bridge project is expected to be completed this year.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.