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Lotta Lettuce Ruling 'Successful Result' for Montville, Attorney Says

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in claimed damages at stake.

An appeals court this month reversed a finding by a trial court that Montville Township improperly took access to a well on farmland owned by Lotta Lettuce without paying required compensation.

The farm, Lotta Lettuce, claimed the township owes it hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, township attorney Martin Murphy said.

While the appellate court reversed the earlier finding of "inverse condemnation," it upheld the trial court's finding that because the land is preserved farmland the state DEP was able to override a Montville ordinance regulating the well.

The township's ordinance "sought to control access to the aquifer where our water supply comes from," Murphy said.

Montville's attorney gave a report on the appellate court's June 12 decision at a Township Committee meeting Tuesday. The case started in 2003 and has garnered media attention over the years, including a feature on "Fox and Friends."

The case was handled by outside counsel for Montville.

"In my opinion ... this is a successful result for the municipality," Murphy said. He said there's a question as to whether Lotta Lettuce will try bring it to the Supreme Court.
Dan Grant June 28, 2013 at 11:55 AM
If you read the Appellate Brief the Court took a very dim view of the representation on both sides. It doesn't read the way our Township Attorney represents at all. Yes they did send it back to a lower court for mediation on the award to Lotta Lettuce and it did reverse the inverse condemation but you don't often read words like "bungled" in a Court Brief. If Citizens only knew.
Jake Remaly (Editor) June 28, 2013 at 12:11 PM
You can read the decision here: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-unpublished/2013/a6036-10.html Here might be a passage you have in mind: "Lotta Lettuce argues that among Montville's drafting blunders and litigational gaffes, the municipality failed to abide the square corners doctrine ... That may be so, but the square corners doctrine is a two-way street. ... In this case, we need not actually tar one party or the other with a label of unfair treatment; even in the face of municipal bungling, it is enough that Lotta Lettuce never joined the issue of the inverse condemnation in an appropriate manner and is therefore disqualified from pursuing such latecomer claims now. The motion court's detection of a potential issue that was not presented by the supposed aggrieved party had no capacity to render that issue viable."
Dan Grant June 28, 2013 at 01:04 PM
Yes Jake, That's one. The Court in essence said a "pox on both your houses".
melikric June 30, 2013 at 07:44 AM
Anther example of township overreach.

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