November 16, 2016 |

Land Use TRIAL

Our client was a northern Idaho county which operated a public airport. In 2008 a developer had purchased a parcel, adjacent to the airport, with the intention to develop a “fly-in” community with about 35 individual lots which would have direct access to the taxiway. While this concept had been tried at other airports, the concept here was unique – the first floor would be an airplane hanger and the residence would be up a long flight of stairs, on the second floor. For various reasons, possibly including the fact that it was opened right during the 2008-09 recession, as of the time of the trial they still had not sold a single lot to a third-party. The developer attempted to blame the County for the failure. We had already prevailed on the original three claims for relief by a summary judgment in Federal court, largely based on preemption because it had been the FAA, and not the County, which had even arguably hindered the project. [That federal judgment, including significant attorney fees against the developer, was affirmed by the 9th Circuit in November, 2017] However, the Federal court had remanded a single recently added claim for “promissory estoppel” to the Idaho state court, and that is what was submitted to a jury trial. I was lead counsel with a team of 5 lawyers due to the number of issues presented by the case, in which the developer was seeking $16 million. The jury advised us that they were split 6-6 on liability, but compromised on a verdict of $250,000 (2% of the claim) at 5pm on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.