tag: North Carolina Land Use Litigator: N.C. Court Reminds Litigants of Need to Preserve "Status Quo" When Appealing Denial of Preliminary Injunction

Tuesday, August 4, 2015, 1:53 PM

N.C. Court Reminds Litigants of Need to Preserve "Status Quo" When Appealing Denial of Preliminary Injunction

Today, we're looking at Shoeheel Farms v. City of Laurinburg, COA14-1089 (August 4, 2015).  The Court of Appeals dismissed as moot property owners' appeal of a trial court's decision denying a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

Facts
The City of Laurinburg and a property owners entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in which property owners authorized the City to drill test wells on their property.  Should the tests reveal that the well locations were suitable for public use, the Memorandum of Understanding continued, the City and the property owners “shall negotiate a mutually agreeable purchase price of the well site.”

After the tests established that the well sites were suitable for public use, the parties were unable to negotiate a mutually agreeable purchase price. Soon after, the City sent property owners a Notice of Condemnation.

Legal Posture
Property owners filed suit seeking to enjoin the City from initiating the condemnation proceedings, and they moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the City from filing a condemnation proceeding and to prevent title and right of possession from vesting in the City upon the filing of the "quick take" condemnation complaint.

The trial court denied the TRO and the PI, and the property owners appealed that denial.  The property owners did nothing more, according to the Court of Appeals, except to notice an appeal.

In the interim -- after the trial court decision and before the Court of Appeals heard the appeal -- the diligent City filed a complaint initiating condemnation proceedings.

As a result of that condemnation complaint, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as "moot".

Takeaway
This case is not about condemnation.  It's about litigation procedure.

The property owners "did not take any action in either the trial court or this Court to preserve the status quo pending the appeal. Consequently, the City filed a complaint initiating condemnation proceedings against plaintiffs in a separate action."  It was this shortfall that allowed the City to file its suit, and, in turn, "moot" the property owners' appeal as to the preliminary injunction to prevent the filing of a condemnation lawsuit.

The case is not over, mind you.  The property owners can still defend within the context of the City's condemnation lawsuit.  It is the opportunity to prevent that suit that has since passed.

Mike Thelen practices in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Practice Group out of the Firm's Raleigh office. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients, from local governments to businesses, in land use and real estate development litigations and transactions in state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

Follow the North Carolina Land Use Litigator on Twitter at @nclanduselaw here and on Instagram at NCLandUseLaw here.

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