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McGregor & Legere Client Landowner Wins Million Dollar Land Use Civil Rights Abuse Case Featured

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We recently concluded a successful court case, captioned “Thyng v. Thomas P. Kelly, individually, et al,” in Norfolk Superior Court. We represented Scotty Thyng, a long-time local landowner in the City of Quincy.

He sued the City for alleged violations of federal and state civil rights statutes by blocking for more than 10 years his attempts to build a single-family residence in the middle of a block in a densely populated neighborhood.

After a two-week trial, the jury found five City of Quincy officials and Conservation Commission members individually liable for civil rights violations on account of denial of the constitutional right to equal protection for obstructing our client. We successfully argued that our client’s property was indistinguishable from other adjacent and nearby properties which were allowed to build, and that the stated reasons for denial were illegally “pre-textual.”

The jury also found the Conservation Administrator liable for violations of substantive due process.

The complaint as originally filed was against thirteen present or former Quincy officials or Commission members. The City of Quincy was later added as a defendant.

After the close of pre-trial discovery, all defendants filed a comprehensive motion for summary judgment, arguing that they enjoyed qualified immunity against our client’s claims and that our clients were made too late and were barred by the statute of limitations.

The Superior Court allowed the motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part. It dismissed the claims against the City and the defendants in their official capacities, and denied it against the remaining defendants in their individual capacities.

The jury found five of the defendants liable and five of the defendants not liable. The cases against three of the defendants were dismissed voluntarily before the case went to the jury.

The final Judgment, with attorneys’ fees and interest, is more than $1.3 million. The jury awarded damages of $433,000.00, including punitive damages of $13,000.00, and the Court awarded attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $566,645.00, and more than $301,000.00 in interest has accrued.

Michael J. O’Neill was trial counsel.

The Conservation Commission had denied our client’s Notice of Intent in June 2004. Our client successfully appealed that denial under the State Wetland Protection Act to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. MassDEP heard that appeal and approved the project in February 2005.

Our client also had appealed the denial under the Quincy Wetlands Ordinance to Norfolk Superior Court. In March 2006, the Norfolk Superior Court remanded the case to the Quincy Conservation Commission. However, despite numerous requests by our client’s then-counsel, the Commission never held a further hearing. After our client retained us, Mr. O’Neill filed a Motion in Norfolk Superior Court on account of the Commission’s failure to hold the hearing.

In January 2008, the Norfolk Superior Court allowed the Motion and entered a Judgment declaring our client’s project approved under the Quincy Wetlands Ordinance. The Court also stated in its ruling that the Commission offered no reason, other than animosity toward Plaintiff, for not scheduling the matter for hearing. This was a key piece of evidence at the civil rights jury trial.

Other key evidence was that many of the Commission’s findings with respect to wetland resource areas that it found were present on our client’s properties were contradicted by its simultaneous or nearly simultaneous findings concerning adjacent and nearby properties that the same resource areas were not present.

Final Judgment on the jury verdict was entered on July 24, 2017. The Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, for a New Trial, and for Remittitur, which was denied by the Court on September 25, 2017. Defendants have recently filed a Notice of Appeal.

Read 2810 times Last modified on Friday, 02 March 2018 15:31
Gregor I. McGregor, Esq.

GREGOR I. McGREGOR, Esq. is the founder of New England’s oldest environmental law firm McGregor & Associates, PC in Boston, formed in 1975 and now McGregor & Legere, PC. The firm handles all aspects of environmental law, land use, real estate, and related litigation. The firm is a founding member of the Environmental Law Network (ELN), an alliance of specialty law firms, in the United States and abroad, sharing their legal expertise and practical experience for the benefit of their clients. Mr. McGregor enjoys Martindale-Hubbell’s highest rating for attorneys (AV).

In 45 years of environmental practice, Mr. McGregor's cases in court broke new ground in the law of Environmental Impact Statements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), wetland and floodplain protection under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, hazardous waste cleanup liability and cost-recovery under the Massachusetts Superfund, reduced taxes and tax exemptions for qualified land conservation transactions, constitutional protections for open space and parkland, Home Rule environmental ordinances and bylaws of cities and towns, law enforcement and contempt remedies, and the constitutional doctrine of Regulatory Takings.

Before 1975, Mr. McGregor was an Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts and the first chief of the Attorney General’s Division of Environmental Protection. In that capacity he advised and represented the Commonwealth during the formative years of Massachusetts environmental statutes, agencies, regulations, enforcement and cases in court.

Mr. McGregor is editor of the two-volume treatise on Massachusetts Environmental Law, published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc.(MCLE). He is co-chair of MCLE’s annual Environmental, Land Use, and Energy Law Conference and MCLE’s Real Estate and Environmental Law Curriculum Advisory Committee. He received from MCLE in 2013 its Scholar-Mentor Award recognizing his dedication to legal scholarship and leadership.

Mr. McGregor chairs the Environmental Committee of the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts (REBA) and serves as a member of the REBA Board of Directors. He is an active member of the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association (MMLA), which honored him for his career contributions to legal education and effective advocacy on the Home Rule Doctrine. At the National CLE Conference in Vail, CO, Mr. McGregor co-chairs an annual seminar on Environmental Law, Land Use, Energy & Litigation for attorneys from across the United States.

Mr. McGregor is a long time member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC) having served as Board President twice. He has handled several cases for MACC as amicus and is a regular presenter at their annual meeting.

Mr. McGregor is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

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