Lawson v. Delaware

In 2013, the Supreme Court dismissed without prejudice a condemnation proceeding by plaintiff-appellee, the State of Delaware Department of Transportation (“DelDOT”), against the defendants-appellants, Jack and Mary Ann Lawson. Thereafter, the Lawsons moved for an award of litigation expenses and costs, which the Superior Court denied. The Lawsons appealed that order, claiming they were entitled to reimbursement for the litigation expenses they incurred by virtue of the condemnation proceeding, under both the Real Property Acquisition Act, and the common law bad faith exception to the so-called “American Rule.” They also claimed they were statutorily entitled to an award of costs. As a matter of first impression, the Supreme Court construed certain language in 29 Del. C. 9503, and held that that provision required reimbursement for litigation expenses related to a condemnation proceeding where a court determines that the subject property cannot be acquired by the governmental entity’s particular exercise of its underlying eminent domain power in that specific proceeding. Accordingly, the Court determined that the Superior Court erred by denying the Lawsons' motion for litigation expenses under 29 Del. C. 9503. The Court also concluded, however, that the Superior Court correctly determined that the Lawsons were not entitled to litigation expenses under the bad faith exception to the American Rule. Finally, the Court held that the Superior Court erred by not addressing the Lawsons' application for costs. View "Lawson v. Delaware" on Justia Law