22 Apr COVID-19 AND EMINENT DOMAIN: STAY SAFE, BUT KEEP ALERT
The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted life across the globe. At Sullivan, Workman & Dee, LLP, our main concern is the health and safety of our families, friends, colleagues, and clients. Consistent with national, state, and local guidelines, most of us are working remotely from home, practicing social distancing, wearing masks when we need to be out, and properly washing our hands. While our physical offices may be closed to the general public, however, our firm remains open and our attorneys remain available to meet our clients’ needs whenever and wherever they arise.
The pandemic provides all of us with the realization that there are true heroes among us. We appreciate the courage of those on the front line who are protecting us, often a great personal risk, including:
- Doctors, nurses, health care providers, custodians, and other staff members who keep our hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and laboratories open and operating.
- First-responders (police, fire-fighters, paramedics, military) who are there when we need them.
- Everyone in the food supply chain who make sure we have enough to eat including farm workers, truckers, grocery store clerks, and restaurant staff.
- Local food banks, non-profits, and faith organizations who keep doing good especially in times of crisis.
- Postal workers and delivery services who deliver to our door everything from food, medicine, and sanitary supplies to jig-saw puzzles.
- The teachers who continue to teach, the parents who continue to parent, the sons and daughters who continue to care for aging parents, and all of you who continue to make a difference during trying times.
But, during this pandemic, life and litigation continue. Even though city halls and court houses are closed, public projects are being planned, appraisals and offers are being made, public hearings are taking place remotely, and eminent domain lawsuits are being filed and prosecuted.
If you are involved in a potential or pending eminent domain matter, here are some matters that require close attention:
Keep in contact with your eminent domain attorneys. Because of the pandemic, courts are routinely continuing trial dates. Hearings, depositions, and mediations are now being conducted remotely. Responding to discovery requests is more challenging. And, consultation with your legal team is even more important. As a property or business owner, you should remain in contact with your eminent domain attorneys so that they know your schedule and your ability to participate in the litigation.
Keep good records. The shutdown could dramatically affect property and business owners: finding and retaining tenants, dealing with rent and lease issues, staying in business, etc. Accurate and detailed records during this time period will greatly assist your eminent domain attorneys and appraiser in the evaluation of fair market value, loss of business goodwill, and other potential damages.
Don’t wait. If you are contacted by an acquisition agent for the government or served with a hearing notice or litigation papers, don’t assume everything is on-hold during the pandemic. Failure to act in a timely manner can significantly affect your rights and remedies. If you are not yet represented by an eminent domain attorney, retain one now.
This is new territory. The pandemic has already affected the way eminent domain litigation is handled. It will also undoubtedly affect the determination of fair market value and compensable damages. Public agencies seeking to diminish the amount of just compensation in an eminent domain action may try to use sales data affected by the shut-down or argue that certain damages are not compensable because they occurred during the shut-down . We are ready to challenge such notions.
We hope you and your families are staying healthy. As we navigate the current health situation regarding the coronavirus, Sullivan Workman & Dee, LLP will remain open and ready to respond to your eminent domain questions or concerns. Please contact us by e-mail or phone at your convenience.