NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION AUTHORITY VS. TOWN OF KEARNY (L-2039-16, HUDSON COUNTY AND STATEWIDE)

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION This opinion shall not “constitute precedent or be binding upon any court.” Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3. SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-2487-18T2 NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION AUTHORITY, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. TOWN OF KEARNY, Defendant-Appellant, and STATE OF NEW JERSEY, by and through the TIDELANDS RESOURCE COUNCIL, THEODORE C. WILDMAN, and all of his heirs, successors and assigns, MIMI DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, its successor HUDSON MEADOWS URBAN RENEWAL CORPORATION, and its further successor, SONEE URBAN RENEWAL CORPORATION, Defendants. __________________________________ Submitted March 11, 2020 – Decided April 9, 2020 Before Judges Koblitz, Gooden Brown and Mawla. On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-2039-16. Castano Quigley LLC, attorneys for appellant (Paul V. Fernicola, of counsel and on the brief; Gregory J. Castano Jr., on the briefs). Lowenstein Sandler LLP, attorneys for respondent (James Stewart and Kent D. Anderson, on the brief). PER CURIAM Defendant Town of Kearny appeals from the December 19, 2018 final judgment for $1,818,000, awarded as just compensation for plaintiff New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s (NJSEA) condemnation of 104.64 acres of the Keegan Landfill (subject property). The trial court adopted the analysis and valuation set forth by NJSEA’s appraisal. Kearny alleges the trial court made improper findings as a matter of law and erred when allowing NJSEA’s rebuttal experts to testify. It also argues it was deprived of its right to a jury trial. We disagree and affirm. In May 2016, NJSEA filed a verified condemnation complaint with the trial court. We affirmed “an order granting a final judgment authorizing [NJSEA] to exercise its power of eminent domain relating to the Keegan A-2487-18T2 2 Landfill.” N.J. Sports & Exposition Auth. v. Town of Kearny, No. A-5152-15 (App. Div. November 20, 2017) (slip op. at 2). On March 9, 2018, NJSEA served expert reports from Jeffrey D. Kendall and John A. Castner. Nineteen days later, Kearny for the first time made an unsuccessful request for a jury trial. After depositions, Kearny’s motion to bar the reports and testimony of Kendall and Castner and NJSEA’s cross-motion to bar Kearny’s rebuttal experts were denied. In October 2018, Judge Francis B. Schultz presided over a five-day bench trial, hearing testimony from eight witnesses. In a comprehensive letter opinion, he found that NJSEA’s expert’s valuation of the property was correct: the fair market value at the time of taking was $1,818,000. We adopt the factual background to this matter as described in our prior opinion. Id. at 3-9. I. A final determination made by a trial court conducting a non-jury case is “subject to a limited and well-established scope of review.” Seidman v. Clifton Sav. Bank, S.L.A., 205 N.J. 150, 169 (2011). We will not disturb the trial court’s fact-findings unless we are “convinced that those findings and …Original document