Cole Secures Victory for the City of Somerset
Sturgill Turner member, Charles Cole, secured a victory for the City of Somerset when a federal judge ruled that city officials had given the late plaintiff adequate notice before razing his dilapidated home in September of 2014.
The city sent the plaintiff a letter regarding his property and the city’s concerns that it was “unfit for human habitation” in advance of a nuisance abatement hearing scheduled for May 23, 2013. The plaintiff then hired an attorney, who met with the city informally in lieu of attending the hearing. The plaintiff also received a condemnation notice, but neither the plaintiff nor his attorney challenged that action before the house was demolished in 2014.
The plaintiff, who passed away in last May, filed suit in the fall of 2015 alleging the city violated his due process and Fourth Amendment rights. In an effort to continue the suit after his passing, his attorney attempted to add his sisters as plaintiffs.
Judge Karen K. Caldwell, Chief Judge of the United States District Court’s Eastern District/Southern Division issued a memorandum opinion and order dismissing much of the complaint.
The plaintiff’s “actions confirm that he had actual notice of the impending determination because he hired an attorney to protect his property interest,” Judge Caldwell wrote. “Roberts was given more than a year in which to make changes to his property. This amount of time provided him with the opportunity to challenge the city’s actions and reduced the risk of erroneous deprivation.”
Judge Caldwell declined to include the plaintiff’s sisters as plaintiffs in the due process claim because, in part, the plaintiff had the opportunity to inform his fellow heirs. Plaintiff lived in the home but did not own it—the home was the property of his mother’s estate, which had not been properly established when the city began the proceedings.
“Sending a letter to the address of the property of concern was reasonable and fairly calculated given these circumstances,” wrote Judge Caldwell. “The due process clause is not implicated because of an apparent lack of communication between siblings.”