HILLSIDE, NJ - The law firm of Stark & Stark announced that it has obtained a verdict of $750,000 for property owner 399 Route 22, LLC, in Hillside, NJ, whose land was condemned by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). The NJDOT initially argued that the amount required to justly compensate the owner was only $40,000, but increased the offer to $90,000 shortly before trial.

The property owner was represented by Timothy P. Duggan, Esq., a shareholder with Stark & Stark, headquartered in Lawrenceville. Duggan offered the testimony of an expert engineer and planner, along with an appraiser, in defending the property owner’s rights and demanded $1,080,000 in just compensation.

“The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property for a public use, providing it pays just compensation,” said Duggan. “However, in this case, the compensation that the NJDOT was originally offering was far from just.” 

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The case involved a property on Route 22 in Hillside that was used as a car dealership. In 2017, the NJDOT filed a condemnation action seeking to take a 5-foot right of way along the front of the property. Duggan argued that since the taking of the land prevented use of the front of the property to display vehicles, the amount required for just compensation was substantially higher than the initial offer.

The NJDOT countered that it did not believe the existing parking of the display vehicles was lawful for several reasons and therefore could not support a claim of damages for its loss. However, the property owner argued that parking of display vehicles was legal—and that any loss of display spaces caused by the taking of the frontage along the highway was compensable.  

Following a trial that lasted five days, the jury entered a verdict of $750,000 as the award of just compensation.

“At Stark & Stark, we are committed to upholding the rights of property owners in all variations of condemnation cases. The government may be a large and powerful entity, but each and every property owner deserves justice, and we are proud to have achieved that in this case,” Duggan said.