Lawsuit Summary Ohio Lakefront Group v. ODNR and State of Ohio

Summary of the Ohio Lakefront Group vs. ODNR Lawsuit

This summary includes only key actions in the lawsuit and does not includes the many dozens of additional briefs that were filed by the ODNR and State, intervening parties, and OLG.

May 28, 2004 – Ohio Lakefront Group Files Suit in Lake County Court

OLG and 12 individual lakeshore property owners filed asking the Court to determine the extent of the Public Trust. The State had defined this as the ordinary high water mark. Plaintiffs contended that their property deeds define their property and that ODNR was illegally charging them for leases to use their own property.

A second part of the suit provided for damages to all property owners if in fact the deeds defined the extent oftheir property to Lake Erie.

A third part of the suit provided that the state pays the property owners fairly for property they have taken (from their deeded property), if the ordinary high water mark defines the extent of the Public Trust.

At the same time Homer S, Taft as well as L Scot Duncan and Darla J Duncan brought two individual suits against ODNR.

September 17, 2004 – OLG Motion for Class Certification

This motion asserts that there are more than 15,500 parcels of property that abut Lake Erie. Further, the State of Ohio, Department of Natural Resources has illegally confiscated land below the Army Corps of Engineers designated ordinary high water mark affecting all owners of those properties.

April 1, 2005 – U.S. removes Law Suit From Lake Countyto U.S. District Court

Based on a brief from the State, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the United States of America, the case is moved to Federal Court

July 17, 2005 – Individuals Homer S. Taft, L. Scot Duncan and Darla J. Duncan file to Intervene on the side of OLG Plaintiffs

Their brief stated that they have virtually identical claims against the same Defendants-Respondents as the Complaint of Plaintiffs, and should thereby be allowed to intervene on the side of the Plaintiffs

July 18, 2005 – National Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council file motion to join the lawsuit as co-defendants with ODNR in Federal Court

The NWF and the OEC filed with the Federal Court in an attempt to join the ODNR as defendants in the lawsuit. These two organizations receive significant annual funding through and from ODNR so was no surprise that they would attempt to join with ODNR.

February 14, 2006 Federal Court Judge Solomon Oliver

Grants the Fed’s Request for Dismissal Judge Solomon Oliver issued an order granting the Feds’ motion to dismiss and remanding the action back to State court. Private property is a State’s only issue.

May 26th, 2006 – National Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council File Motion to Intervene in Lake County Court

Their original filing with the Federal Court is mute since the case was remanded. back to Lake County Court.

June 8, 2006 – Judge Lucci Orders Class Certification for Lawsuit

This meant that all owners of property along the shore of Lake Erie, other than the state and its agencies, will be considered a part of this case and not merely the original 12 plaintiffs that filed the suit over two years ago.

December 11, 2007 – Lake County Common Pleas Court,

Judge Lucci Rules in favor of OLG Lake County Common Pleas Court, Judge Lucci ruled in a class action suit that the property owners along the Lake Erie shoreline own the land consistent with their deeds, and to the water’s edge.

April 18, 2008 – State of Ohio Files Appeal Brief with Appellate Court

The appeal was to the 11th District State Court of Appeals, appealing each and every judgment by the Common Pleas Court.

August 24, 2009 – Appellate Court Upholds Trial Court Decisions

The Court rejected the argument that the OHWM dictates the natural shoreline as asserted by the State and NWF/OEC. The Court rejected the NWF argument that the public can walk on the dry beach for recreational purposes finding that the “public retains the same rights to walk lakeward of the shoreline along Lake Erie, but these rights have always been limited to the area of the public trust (i.e., on the lands under the waters of Lake Erie)The Court observed that “Nearly 130 years ago, the Supreme Court of Ohio observed that littoral owners have the right to exclude the public from their property.”

October 7, 2009 – Attorney General Cordray Files Appeal to Ohio Supreme Court

Mr. Cordray actually recognized that littoral owners have special rights, but continued to assert that Ohio has held the public trust to the ordinary high water mark since statehood.

September 14, 2011 – Ohio Supreme Court Rules – Protects Private Property Rights

In their decision they stated, “This court has a history of protecting property rights, and our decision today continues that long-standing precedent.” The Court remanded the case back to the Common Pleas Court for claims consistent with this opinion.

September 10, 2012 – Judge Lucci Defines private property boundary affirming Private Property Rights

Judge Lucci ruled that home owners’ boundaries should be calculated according to when the lake’s water is at rest, without disturbance.”

His Order further:

1. Voided any submerged land leases forced by the State of Ohio on property owners of any land above the natural shoreline.

2. Rejected the State’s assertion of authority to compel property owners to lease back property owned by them as specified in their deeds, including lands lost due to avulsion.

3. Ordered the State to provide notice and guidance to the public and to governmental authorities on these rules establishing boundaries for waterfront property.

4. Ordered the State to refund all submerged land lease fees for property covered in this suit paid between 1998 and the present.

September 24, 2012 – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine Appeals to Appellate Court

The A.G. asserts that Judge Lucci abused his discretion in reaching his decision and did not go through a thorough analysis of the facts of the case.

April 4, 2014 – The 11th District Court of Appeals rules in favor of OLG in latest Appeal by the State

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals only considered the issue of class certification and affirmed the continuation of Class Certification for OLG and all the class members who own property bordering Lake Erie.

May 15, 2014 – ODNR Appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court

ODNR now hires private outside attorneys in its appeal. The Appeal is basically a rewrite of the appeal to the 11th District Court.

June 13, 2014 – OLG responds to ODNR Appeal

OLG responds that ODNR did not fully understand the Appeals Court decision. Further, this appeal is not of significant interest to the people as class certification in Mandamus actions is a norm across the nation. Therefore the Supreme Court should not hear the appeal

August 25 , 2015 OLG Requests Summary Judgement Against the State

Based on the Supreme Court decision to uphold Judge Lucci’s order and other precedents, the Court should grant Class Plaintiffs’ Motion for SummaryJudgment on Count II of the First Amended Complaint, and issue a writ of mandamus compelling the State to commence appropriations proceedings to determine the amount of compensation owed to each of the Class Plaintiffs for the State’s taking of their private property rights.

May 27, 2016 Motion for Approval of Class Action Settlement with notice to class holders and set hearing for Final Judgement

After nearly a year of negotiations with the State a settlement is reached and brought before the Judge. The Judge subsequently affirms the settlement with notice to be sent to class and setting a hearing date.

October 27, 2016 Judge Lucci’s Order and Final Judgement

Judge Lucci ordered all parties to abide by the stipulation, awarding payment to holders of submerged lands lease, all property owners that are part of the class, and awarding attorney fees to OLG. The total amount was $6.1 million. An administrator was assigned by the Court to make payments to those property owners who filed claims. Approximately 1600 property owners filed claims with the average amount of payment of approximately $1700.

May 30, 2017 through the end of the year, payments were made to property owners who filed proper claims

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