Adam Bros. Farming, Inc. v. County of Santa Barbara (Mar. 4, 2008, B180880) 2008 WL 565025 [nonpublished opinion]

Two family agribusiness entities sued Santa Barbara County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a supposed civil rights deprivation based on the County’s delineation of a wetland on a large parcel of land that one of the plaintiffs owned and the other wanted to farm. The judgment they won at trial, which with fees and punitive damages against some individual defendants totaled over $6 million, has been publicized as the largest land use judgment in Santa Barbara County history.

Although there was no serious question that the wetland delineation was based on faulty methodology, GMSR, representing the County in the Court of Appeal, successfully persuaded the court that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue since the delineation, and therefore any civil rights violation, occurred well before they bought the land. The court also agreed that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations, since the plaintiffs had plenty of information about the faulty delineation well over a year before they sued. Result: The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the civil rights claims and ordered entry of judgment for the County and other defendants.

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