State settles with couple over easement dispute for $1

TRENTON – A Harvey Cedars couple reached a settlement with the state after claiming in a lawsuit that a sand dune easement cost them about $2 million in property damage, officials announced.

The years-long court battle has resulted in a $1 settlement with the couple.

According to the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Protection, the settlement has “far-reaching implications” for the state as officials continue efforts to construct dunes along New Jersey’s coast following the destruction of Superstorm Sandy.

“This settlement represents an important outcome for the citizens of New Jersey, for our precious natural resources along the coast, and for the rebuilding of our Jersey Shore communities,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed by Harvey and Phyllis Karan prior to Sandy hitting the Jersey Shore, stems from action by Harvey Cedars seeking to obtain an easement from the Karans to build a 22-foot-high dune on a portion of their lot.

The municipality ultimately used its power of eminent domain to acquire the easement and the subsequent court battle raged over the value of the easement. A jury awarded the couple $375,000 for the easement, however the state’s high court ultimately reversed the decision and ordered the couple to have their case heard in a new trial.

The state’s acting attorney general credited the couple with helping to bring an end to the court battle.

“It is to the Karans’ credit that they were willing to put a halt to this protracted legal dispute following the Supreme Court’s decision,” Hoffman said.

The borough agreed to reimburse the couple more than $24,000 in out-of-pocket litigation costs, though state officials stress no legal fees were paid.

“The reimbursement for litigation costs was appropriate in this situation because the Karans’ original complaint long predated the recent change in law by the Supreme Court,” according to the attorney general’s office. “No post-Sandy cases going forward will be treated similarly in this regard.”

The Karans’ lawsuit was filed in court prior to Sandy hitting the Jersey Shore. However, the case was expected to have ramifications up and down the Jersey Shore, because the state wants to build more dunes to protect its coast from future hurricanes.

State settles with couple over easement dispute for $1