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Virginia Judge Tosses Oysterman’s Lawsuit Against City of Suffolk

September 13, 2019 | Quick Takes

Waterfront environmental law does not like it when untreated sewage is released into a river. But the man who sued the City of Suffolk in this case tried to win big dollars (his attorney said millions!) by claiming the sewage wrecked the crop of oysters he was growing in the river. Trouble is he bypassed environmental law and, instead, used the law of eminent domain. As you can see from their blog, my partners at Pender & Coward, Dave Arnold and Ross Greene, are top eminent domain attorneys. They got the case tossed out of court because they knew that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled over 100 years ago that the law of eminent domain cannot be used this way. That U.S. Supreme Court case, decided in 1916, rejected the same claim brought by an oyster man who sued the City of Newport News, Virginia for the very same thing. The Virginia Judge wrote in his opinion (issued on September 9, 2019) that “[w]hile it may be time to revisit Justice Holmes’ decision, the Court does not believe that a Judge in the 5th Circuit of Virginia is the person to do so.”

About The Author

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Jim uses waterfront (riparian) property rights law, maritime & admiralty law, and environmental law to protect Virginians who live, work and play on the water. Contact Jim at (757) 502-7326 or