How We Got the NCDOT to Pay for All Costs and Attorney's Fees
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Every once in a while in this business you get a case that is beyond frustrating for the client simply because the NCDOT decides to drag its feet. It makes you wonder if they are hoping some clients will simply give up and go away.
This case was one of them. Our client, Jay, first received a letter from the NCDOT in 2011 stating that they would be widening the highway and that it would come close to the back doorstep of his townhome.
Three years went by and he heard nothing further. Then he got a letter from his homeowner's association explaining that the HOA would NOT be representing the individual property owners against the NCDOT, and encouraged them to get their own representation.
Jay recalls, "I got a letter from our homeowners' association saying that they were in a case and they were being the representatives for the homeowners' association, not for the individual properties. But it was just a recommendation for us to look into the case if we wanted to."
Because the road was coming dangerously close to Jay's back door (within about eight to 10 feet), he felt it was in his best interest to get his own legal representation. "I did some research and found your firm was representing a lot of the individual property owners for this project."
For reasons that are complicated and beyond the scope of this story, the NCDOT decided not to name individual property owners in the condemnation lawsuit. Even though the common areas that they were taking for the expanded six-lane highway were the back yards that led directly to each individual townhome's back doorstep.
Since the NCDOT was not filing a lawsuit against individual property owners for condemnation, attorney Jason Campbell filed what is known as a "reverse condemnation" or "inverse condemnation" lawsuit against NCDOT.
Based on Jason's experience as assistant attorney general working for the NCDOT representing the "other side," he felt that would be the best strategy in Jay's situation.
Jason explained, "In reverse condemnation lawsuits we can ask for fair and just compensation for the taking, and we can also sue for expenses such as appraisal costs, expert witnesses, and attorney's fees. In Jay's case, we were also able to sue for air fare costs for the times he paid for a flight to attend an NCDOT hearing, only to have to cancel the flight because the NCDOT cancelled hearings at the last minute."
It was a frustrating experience for Jay. Part of that frustration stemmed from his concern that the NCDOT was building the road so close.
Jay said, "I would advise anybody going through this to do exactly what I did. But I hope nobody has to go through it. With the road coming so close to the house, I wish the DOT would have just taken the home. Realistically, if there were a car accident there and someone were to get hurt, that's on my conscience forever. It's really difficult to understand why or how they thought it was okay to build a road right on top of a house."
Unfortunately, even before the new road had been completed, an SUV came crashing through the living room of the home next to Jay's. Although people were inside the home, thankfully no one was injured.
At the end of the day when everything was finalized, Jay said he was pleased with the end result. "Jason definitely seemed to know the system really well. He understood both sides and he seemed confident in what he was telling me, which definitely helped ease my mind. What he told me ended up being correct as far as what I might recover. And as far as Jason and your team are concerned the end result was great. I'm happy with the results."