Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Collier to Sue CVS over Eminent Domain ‘Fraud’

a CVS store in Philadelphia.

“naplesCollier County plans to go after a pair of companies over a court award they say needs to be paid back.

The Board of County Commissioners gave approval to County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow to take legal action against CVS subsidiary Holiday CVS and Realty Trust Group on Tuesday as part of an eminent domain deal they county calls fraudulent.

“[I’d like to] bring suit against CVS and the landlord, taking back the taxpayer money we lost on two basic premises: one, fraud on the court, and two, unjust enrichment,” Klatzkow said. “They got money they said they were losing that they never lost.”

In 2014, CVS and Realty Trust Group were awarded $6.5 million by a jury when the county took over a portion of a parking lot owned by Realty Trust Group, which housed a CVS Pharmacy, as part of construction at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and U.S. 41 in East Naples.

CVS terminated their lease over the loss of parking space, and the two companies were awarded the sum for lost future income and attorneys’ fees and costs. In the meantime, the store would stay open on a month-to-month basis.

According to testimony by CVS representative Brian Cook the store was set to close in January 2015.

But it’s still open, and that has the county livid.

“20 months after saying they would close that store it remains open,” Klatzkow said. “Month to month the landlord gets his rent. Month to month the cashiers are ringing out customers.”

Klatzkow plans send a letter to the CEO of the company, to see if this was simply an oversight and could be settled outside of court. But he says the county’s position is strong, saying the companies’ options are to either admit they were wrong, or admit they lied.

“Either way we ought to get our money back,” he said.

The county has around 150 properties currently going through the eminent domain process, the attorney said.

“I’d like the owners of those to know that we are happy to fairly compensate those owners for their loss, even more than fairly compensate them,” Klatzkow said.

“Just don’t lie to create claims that don’t exist. It’s not right, it undermines the whole process.”

The board approved the measure unanimously.

A request was sent to CVS Health. They replied with a statement:

“We believe that any lawsuit filed by Collier County against CVS Pharmacy in this matter would be unfounded and without merit.  We initially attempted to settle this matter without a costly trial, but the County insisted on taking it to trial.  At that point, Florida state law required the jury to assume “worst case scenario” for a property owner and tenant when their land is taken by eminent domain.

Ultimately, while the total jury award was over $5 million, CVS received only approximately $1.9 million for its business damages.  We have, in fact, seen a business impact at our store location due to the reduced access and reduced parking that resulted from the taking. In addition, we continue to evaluate the long-term impact on the store’s business and whether to keep this location open.”

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