Florida Restaurant Wins $3.2M In Eminent Domain Dispute

A Florida state judge awarded $3.2 million as compensation to a Palm Beach County restaurant that was sued by the state’s Department of Transportation under the state’s eminent domain laws so that the government could obtain land to rebuild the Earman River Bridge after it partially collapsed in 2017.

In his order filed Tuesday, Judge Jaimie R. Goodman of the 15th Judicial Circuit Court noted that the department had previously deposited $346,100 in the court registry, and told the department to send a $2.8 million check to Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill Inc.’s counsel within 60 days of receiving his court order.

Florida’s government began its suit against Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill in September 2021 in Florida state court. According to a public relations representative for Government Law Group PLLC, the law firm representing the restaurant, the department initially offered $346,000 for the restaurant’s land, which was near the reconstruction site of the partially collapsed bridge.

The representative said the reconstruction project would have disrupted the restaurant’s business for seven years.

After the suit was filed, the department and the restaurant began to mediate in December 2022 and settled the dispute in January 2023, according to court records.

In a Wednesday statement to Law360, the restaurant’s counsel, Richard J. Dewitt III described the compensation award as a “stellar result.” Dewitt said that he had to use eminent domain experts to determine how much compensation the restaurant deserved for its land.

Dewitt also praised the professionalism of one of the department’s counsel, Melissa Presser.

“Ms. Presser had an extremely difficult job balancing the needs of FDOT to take the property, the impact to the property and business owner, and protecting the taxpayers dollars in fully compensating the property and business owner,” Dewitt said. “The ultimate result was a great win for Frigate’s which will provide relief to the impacts caused by the Earman Bridge replacement project.”

Counsel for the department didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Department of Transportation is represented by David R. Ottey, Jared Silver and Melissa Presser.

Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill is represented by Richard J. Dewitt III of Government Law Group PLLC.

The case is State of Florida Department of Transportation v. Frigate’s Holdings LLC, case number 50-2021-CA-010519-XXXX-MB, in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida.

–Editing by Marygrace Anderson.

Update: This story has been updated with comment from counsel for Frigate’s.

Article Link: Florida Restaurant Wins $3.2M In Eminent Domain Dispute
Auther: Isaac Monterose