Dale M. Maas, Attorney at Law
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Property seized by government port officials, owner contests

Under the Constitution, citizens of this great nation have rights when their private property lands in the hands of government control. This is a way to separate business from government control and has served our country well so far. Sometimes the government and private business butt heads when there are competing interests. A Louisiana company has filed suit against the government for what they claim to be an illegal takeover of their business and property.

The plaintiff alleges that defendant, government authorized St. Bernard Parish port officials, trampled on Louisiana's eminent-domain laws when they seized a privately run port operation along a mile of the Mississippi River. The plaintiff had amassed riverfront land and developed five deepwater berths there over decades. $16 million in state funds were utilized to take over the property. Now, the property is under port control and leased to another firm that also runs publicly owned port facilities in the area.

At stake, there are potentially tens of millions of dollars to the company that owns and operates the port. The plaintiff argues that the goal of taking the property was to put it within another private business' control - which is illegal. The plaintiff portrayed that the port's stated plans to expand the facility for bulk cargo operations was similar to their own business plan for the property. Louisiana state law says that "no business enterprise or any of its assets shall be taken for the purpose of operating that enterprise or halting competition with a government enterprise."

Real estate transactions can go awry between private and public parties. In this case, this privately owned company is alleging that a government organization illegally took control of their private property. While the two were in negotiations, it looks like a deal was never struck. If appropriate, the business litigation court could award damages to the wronged party.

Source: theadvocate.com, "La. Supreme Court hears arguments in controversial, potentially precedent setting case of eminent domain," John Simerman, Oct. 16, 2017

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