This Is No Typo: a 5-Year-Old Lawsuit Can Result in a Settlement of “1 Dollar”

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on December 26, 2013

I honestly had to look at this carefully, with scrutiny, thinking I was reading it wrong, or if there were some missing zeroes. But I couldn’t wrap my finger around it. It definitely was what it, well, was – one measly green Washington piece of paper as an awarded ‘settlement.’ This pertains to a New Jersey couple, Harvey and Phyllis Karan, with a lawsuit filed against the state regarding the construction of a protective sand dune behind their beachfront home. Why were they filing? Because they lost their panoramic view of hurricanethe ocean.

Before you start crying out the word ‘frivolous,’ read on: needless to say, they went ahead with their lawsuit (which, I repeat, technically lasted a full five years), rejecting even a $300 offer as compensation for the land they purchased in 2008. They were well aware of what they were buying: a beachfront property with a panoramic view – so you can see some of the validity in their claim. They essentially no longer received what they purchased due to the protective sand dune.

I ask rhetorically, though: they rejected the $300 offer as compensation? There may be whispers of frivolity echoing through the hallways of the legal stratosphere as we speak, but read on…. Eventually, a jury then awarded the couple $375K in ‘damages.’ I quote that, because I can hardly call them “damages,” as they’re more “inconveniences” than anything else. But the law is impartial. This gets better, though….

The New Jersey Supreme Court actually overturned that decision! Why? Their argument was such that the trial court didn’t even consider whether or not the benefits of the higher dune more than compensated for the loss of value of the couple’s property. After all, if I owned a beachfront home, I’d want safety more than luxury (although the luxury’s nice). Think of what Hurricane Sandy could’ve done without that protective dune. Say good-bye to your “panoramic view.” What did the couple receive then? A measly one dollar bill, apparently (borough officials, however, agreed to provide court cost reimbursements for the couple, totaling up to $24,260, so that helps. Not their legal fees, though. They were responsible for those).

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