Saturday, September 05, 2015

Recent S. Florida Airport Expansion Triggers New Round Of Homeowner Lawsuits; Shaky Homes, Noisy Planes Leaving Droppings All Over The Place Among Residents' Complaints; Local Lawyers Begin Peddling Their Services To About 24,000 Area Homeowners

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports:
  • The runway was completed a year ago, decades of lawsuits settled and, for a while, peace. But that was shortlived.

    A team of lawyers from three law firms announced [...] they've filed two new lawsuits against Broward County regarding runway noise and delays in soundproofing for homes near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

    Among the homeowners listed as plaintiffs are those who bought their homes as early as 1979, and as recently as 2013, during construction of the runway on the south side of the airport.

    The homeowners' complaints go beyond mere noise. They say the airplanes vibrate their homes and leave droppings on houses and vehicles.

    One homeowner worried the overflights would affect the biodiversity in her butterfly friendly backyard, the lawsuit says. A couple allege they can't "converse, speak over the telephone, listen to television, or sleep in their own homes.'' And another couple complains of "depression, feelings of hopelessness, frustration, loss of sleep, and an increase in allergies.''

    The controversial second major runway at FLL airport opened to its first flight on Sept. 18, 2014. It carries roughly 30 percent of the air traffic.

    Complaints began shortly thereafter, from homeowners not used to the constant roar.

    The county agreed to soundproof some homes in the highest noise zones, and compensate some homeowners who sell for a loss. A relatively small pool of nearby homeowners also will have the option of taking a cash payment to make up for their loss in home value.

    But in the dual lawsuits, the attorneys say soundproofing is delayed, and the programs for homeowners who want to sell or receive cash payments are not yet in place.

    One lawsuit is filed on behalf of homeowners accepted into soundproofing and compensation programs but not yet helped by them, and the other lawsuit was filed on behalf of homeowners rejected by the county from the compensation and soundproofing programs.

    The homeowners say the county's opening of the runway, sending jets coursing within 500 feet of their homes, amounted to a "taking'' for which they should be compensated.(1) They're asking for money, and for a speeding up of the soundproofing. The attorneys also want to conduct noise level testing independently, on behalf of homeowners who were rejected from the programs, and they seek to expand the county's help to homeowners not currently eligible.

    In a letter the attorneys said they sent to about 24,000 homeowners, mostly west of the runway in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Dania Beach, attorney Stephen Malove offered to represent those suffering "economic losses'' including pain and suffering and "loss of quiet enjoyment'' of the property.

    Attorney Lawrence Caplan said the county made promises to homeowners that it hasn't kept. "Not only are we trying to right some wrongs,'' Caplan said, "we're also trying to hold their feet to the fire.''
Source: Homeowners file new lawsuits over runway noise.

(1) This is typically referred to as an inverse condemnation, "[a] term used in the law to describe a situation in which the government takes private property but fails to pay the compensation required by the 5th Amendment of Constitution. In some states the term also includes damaging of property as well as taking it. In order to be compensated, the owner must then sue the government. In such cases the owner is the plaintiff and that is why the action is called inverse – the order of parties is reversed, as compared to the usual procedure in direct condemnation where the government is the plaintiff who sues a defendant-owner to take his or her property." Reference: Wikipedia.

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