Lewis Rice Wins Victory for Miami Landowners in Federal Circuit

Lewis Rice attorneys from our federal takings & rails-to-trails practice won a significant victory for several landowners in Miami, Florida who brought takings claims against the federal government. The claim was a result of the conversion of the abandoned Florida East Coast Railway right-of-way into the Ludlam Trail, a public recreational hiking and biking trail, which ran over the landowners’ property.

The win came on appeal to the Federal Circuit after Judge Marian B. Horn of the United States Court of Federal Claims entered judgment against the landowners holding that they did not own any land underlying the abandoned railroad right-of-way. Meghan Largent from Lewis Rice argued the case on behalf of the Miami landowners.

“This win is significant because the Federal Circuit agreed that under Florida law, an owner of land adjacent to an easement is presumed to own the land underlying the easement once the easement is abandoned,” Largent said. “This is a big win for our clients because it allows them to continue to pursue just compensation from the federal government for their private property taken for this public trail.” 

The Court also concluded that language in a neighborhood plat describing the property as a “less and except” a railroad right-of-way, does not operate to remove the land under the right-of-way from the plat. 

Judge Richard G. Taranto, joined by Judges Todd M. Hughes and Raymond T. Chen reversed Judge Horn’s decision ruling in favor of the Miami landowners. A copy of the published opinion can be found here.

The case will now return to Judge Horn in the United States Court of Federal Claims for further proceedings.

About Lewis Rice’s Federal Takings & Rails to Trails Practice

Lewis Rice's federal takings attorneys represent landowners throughout the United States pursuing takings claims against the federal government. One primary focus of the group is representing landowners in what is commonly referred to as rails-to-trails takings. Attorneys in this group litigate cases in the United States Court of Federal Claims on behalf of those whose property was taken by the federal government pursuant to the National Trails System Act, which authorizes abandoned railroad lines to be converted to public parks. The goal is to obtain compensation from the government for the taking of their land for the public recreational trail. The attorneys in the Federal Takings Practice Group focus on both proving the taking has occurred as well as establishing the value of the property that was taken. Their national work for landowners includes representing landowners coast-to-coast, including 11 states.

In securing judgments for clients after trial and pre-trial settlements, attorneys in the Federal Takings Practice Group have secured multi-million dollar awards for these landowners. Lewis Rice attorneys also have significant experience representing landowners in The United States Court of Appeals.

We represent our clients in this area of law through contingency fee arrangements, which allow our clients to prosecute their claims without paying attorney fees upfront. Attorney fees are paid only if a favorable outcome is achieved.