Sunday, September 27, 2020

COLLIER COUNTY ATTORNEY TO ASK THE BOARD FOR AUTHORIZATION TO FILE SUIT AGAINST THE CVS CORPORATION AND REALTY TRUST GROUP, LLC TO RETURN MORE THAN $6.5 MILLION OF TAXPAYER MONEY

 

 

Collier County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow next Tuesday will ask the Collier County Board of County Commissioners to authorize him to file suit on behalf of the County against the CVS Corporation and Realty Trust Group LLC, asking them to return over $6.5 million in taxpayer money that he asserts was wrongfully obtained by them as a result of an eminent domain jury trial. The claims in the proposed lawsuit are unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy to commit extrinsic fraud on the court.

The proposed suit has its genesis in road improvements at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Collier Boulevard.  The improvements required the taking of a strip of land owned by Realty Trust Group LLC (RTG) in 2013, which RTG leased to CVS. The taking resulted in the loss of 11 parking spaces to the CVS store. CVS terminated its lease with RTG based on the loss of these parking spaces and continued operating as a month-to-month tenant. CVS claimed millions of dollars in lost future profits, and RTG claimed millions of dollars in lost rent for the remainder of the lease. The County paid the fair market value for the taking of the strip, which was not in dispute.

A jury trial was held in January 2014 to determine the amount of business damages for CVS and RTG. CVS asserted that they would be closing the store on Jan. 1, 2015.  Based on the assertion that the store would be closing in a year, a jury awarded CVS $1.933 million in lost future business income, and RTG was awarded $3.1 million for loss of future rental income from CVS. As a direct result of the verdict, per Florida statute, the County was also assessed and paid in excess of $1.5 million for CVS’s and RTG’s attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees and costs.

Despite the company’s assertion that the intersection improvements would force them to close the store on Jan. 1, 2015, CVS continues to remain in business at that location.

“The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that private property cannot be taken for public use without the payment of just compensation,” Klatzkow wrote in the Executive Summary submitted in support of the request. “The overriding principle is that property owners are to be fully and fairly compensated for their loss as a result of a public taking of their property. Just compensation was never intended to give a property owner a windfall. CVS and RTG either engaged in a scheme that was calculated to interfere with the judicial system’s ability to fairly adjudicate that lawsuit, and should return the money, or at best made an error that resulted in a windfall, and should return the money.”

The County Attorney stated “the money awarded to CVS and RTG was money that could have been used to support public services such as libraries, museums, parks and afterschool programs; to maintain and improve the County’s infrastructure like roads and bridges; to support County Emergency Medical Services and public health programs; to care for abandoned animals; or other ways that taxpayer money benefits our residents and visitors.”

If authorized to bring suit, the County Attorney intends to send a letter to CVS’s President and CEO, its General Counsel and its Chief Compliance Officer, who may not be aware of what happened in Collier County, giving CVS 10 business days to respond.

For more information, contact Mike Sheffield at (239) 252-8383.

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