Thursday, September 24, 2015

Eminent Domain Mediation

Just having conducted an eminent domain mediation this week between a municipality and property owner, I was reminded of dispute resolution features contained in the statutory process here in Florida codified in Chapter 73, Florida Statutes. Under this section, at any time in the presuit negotiation process, the parties may agree to submit the compensation or business damage claims to "nonbinding" mediation. It is interesting this language is used as a qualifier. Though the process is certainly designed for self-determination of the outcome, any agreement reached containing the formalities referenced below would likely be binding when reviewed by a court. Under this process, the parties shall agree upon a mediator certified under Chapter 44, Florida Statutes. Records used to substantiate business claims include federal income tax returns, tax withholding statements, state sales tax returns, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, state corporate income tax returns for five years preceding notification attributable to the business operation on the property to be acquired, and other records relied upon by the business owner as evidence. In the event that there is a settlement reached as a result of mediation or other mutually acceptable dispute resolution procedure, the agreement reached shall be in writing. The written agreement provided for in this section shall incorporate by reference the right-of-way maps, construction plans, or other documents related to the taking upon which the settlement is based. In the event of a settlement, both parties shall have the same legal rights that would have been available under law if the matter had been resolved through eminent domain proceedings in circuit court with the maps, plans, or other documents having been made a part of the record. As such, the property or business owner who settles compensation claims in lieu of condemnation shall be entitled to recover costs in the same manner as provided by statute. Evidence of negotiations or of any written or oral statements used in mediation or negotiations between the parties under this section is inadmissible in any condemnation proceeding, except in a proceeding to determine reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. See more here--