Challenging Tax Assessments on Contaminated Property in Florida
Invironmental contamination present in the soil or groundwater may significantly reduce the market value of contaminated property or adjacent properties. Although this should be considered by the property appraiser in assessing the property for purposes of imposing property taxes, the impact of contamination often is overlooked or underestimated. In Florida, this devaluation issue is especially significant in light of the thousands of petroleum- and drycleaning-solvent-contaminated sites that have been identified in the state pursuant to various cleanup reimbursement programs. Although many of these sites are eligible for state-funded cleanup, the programs remain underfunded, and cleanup has been progressing at a snail’s pace. As a result, taxpayers who own such sites—even those who are eligible for cleanup funding—should be aware that Florida provides mechanisms to challenge assessments which fail to take into consideration the contaminated nature of the property.1
A central problem a taxpayer will face in challenging the assessment is determining the appropriate method to measure the impact on market value caused by the contamination.2 Unfortunately, this is a relatively new issue for tax appraisers, courts, and administrative tax boards, and a consistent approach has not been developed. The problem is compounded by the fact that real estate valuation is “an art, not science” and relies on the approximation and judgment of the experts who review the data and apply the various methodologies.3
Florida law in particular remains relatively undeveloped in the area of contaminated property valuation. As a result, this article discusses various approaches used by other states’ courts and tax boards to measure the effect of contamination on property value, and discusses those Florida cases that bear on the issue. Before this is addressed, however, it is necessary to review the statutory background for tax assessments in Florida.
Florida Law on Valuation
The guiding principle in Florida for attaching value to property for tax purposes is set forth in the state constitution: “No assessments shall exceed just value.”4 The concept of “just value” is legally synonymous with fair market value.5 Under the Florida Constitution and case law, fair market value is the gauge by which all methods of valuation, statutory or otherwise, must be measured.6 Where an appraiser fails to consult reliable sources of information in the valuation process and makes no attempt to reach the fair market value of the assessed property, the assessment is illegal.7
Fair market value is what “a purchaser willing but not obliged to buy would pay to a seller willing but not obliged to sell.”8 In arriving at just value, Florida law requires that property appraisers consider certain listed factors.9 Although these factors include the condition and highest and best use of the property and there is no specific language relating to environmental contamination, both factors are broad enough to include contamination.
Approaches to Valuation
There are three basic approaches an appraiser employs to arrive at a valuation: the cost, market (direct sales comparison), and income, or economic, approach.10 In conducting a thorough appraisal of a property, an appraiser generally will consider all three methods. In reaching a conclusion as to the value of the property, however, the appraiser does not average the three estimates, but rather relies primarily on the approach that seems most reliable in the particular case. This process is called “reconciliation.”11 In the reconciliation process, an appraiser compares the quality and quantity of the data used in each of the three appraisal approaches.
With respect to contaminated property, an appraiser may have a difficult time using the three traditional methods because all rely on market data to some degree and often there is little or no market data available concerning contaminated land. Furthermore, the cost approach may not be relevant to valuing contaminated land, since it focuses on the buildings and structures on the property and not the soil and water. Similarly, the income approach may not be useful in situations where the contamination has not interfered with the use or utility of building improvements.12
In light of the unique situation presented by each property, courts, tax boards, and property assessors have taken widely varying approaches toward the issues of costs to cure and stigma associated with the property’s contamination. These are discussed below, along with Florida cases that bear on the issue.
• Costs to Cure
When can a deduction for costs to cure be taken? Assuming that contamination is a relevant factor to consider in appraising the property, the existence of the contamination, by itself, nonetheless may be insufficient to support a cleanup cost deduction for purposes of estimating the market value of property. Some courts have held that in order to deduct the cost of cleanup, two additional factors must be shown in addition to the existence of contamination: 1) there is a legal requirement for cleanup; and 2) the costs of cleanup, including a formal plan and timetable, are established with a reasonable degree of certainty.13 Thus, if the property is not on the Superfund list or other federal or state contaminated property list and no other evidence is offered that the property is being cleaned up or will ever need to be cleaned up, then the court might uphold the property appraiser’s refusal to deduct the cost of cleanup.14
Methodologies for valuation of costs to cure. Once it is determined that a taxpayer is entitled to a deduction for the contamination, a more complicated and controversial question is the proper valuation methodology to employ in that devaluation. Each case of environmental contamination is unique, and the traditional techniques used by appraisers—comparable sales, income, and cost—may be deficient in this respect. However, traditional valuation techniques must be adapted sufficiently to account for environmental contamination.
A few courts have concluded that environmental contamination automatically renders the real property unmarketable, and the property should be appraised at a nominal value for purposes of tax assessment.15 However, this conclusion is ordinarily rejected unless the property is highly contaminated and unmarketable.16 Simply alleging that no buyer can be found for the property usually will not be sufficient for a finding that the property has no value for tax purposes.17
More commonly, property value is arrived at by subtracting the cost to remediate or “cure”18 The property from the value of the property in an uncontaminated state. This general approach was recommended by the court in Roden v. Estech, Inc., 508 So. 2d 728, 730–31 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987). Specifically, the appraiser uses the three methods of appraisal to determine the value of the property in an uncontaminated state and then adjusts that figure downward dollar-for-dollar by the cost of cleanup. The rationale is that cleanup costs are a reasonably accurate gauge to quantify environmental damage and reflect the reduced value a willing buyer would pay.19 Once the cost-to-cure amount is obtained, the costs are adjusted to reflect present value dollars.
On the other hand, some courts rule out automatically reducing value dollar-for-dollar by the amount of cleanup costs expended. These courts reason that contamination does not affect the “true value” of the property, because it is only a temporary condition.20 Deduction of cleanup costs may reflect the effect that these costs have on the profitability of the landowner, but they fail to demonstrate their effect on the facility’s property value as of the assessment date.21
• Stigma After Cleanup
Even if costs to cure are not available to deduct from the assessment—for example, where the contamination is not required to be cleaned up—the property still may suffer a loss in value due to a market-perceived “stigma” relating to the contamination.22 The concept of stigma is a relatively new one and basically recognizes that intangible factors such as fear and uncertainty result in a residual reduction in the value of contaminated property. This uncertainty comes from lack of information about whether the site really can be cleaned up, the cost of doing so, and who will shoulder the costs of the cleanup. In other words, stigma is the value discount that is required to compensate prospective buyers (or lenders) for the ownership risks associated with the property—although it does not take into account direct costs to cure. Indeed, the reduction in value attributable to stigma associated with contaminated property can be more significant than that attributed to the cleanup cost.23
The uncertainty (and, therefore, the risk and stigma) is typically highest before the property is studied and remediated because buyers are uncertain about how much cleanup will be required and whether it will be effective. This decreases, however, as remediation proceeds and declines further after cleanup is completed. Significantly, after cleanup is complete and approved by a governmental agency, the stigma does not disappear entirely. Rather, it may last indefinitely due to the perceived risks at the site.24
For example, contaminants in groundwater and soils at Superfund sites must be cleaned up to certain protective levels determined through a risk assessment. When the contaminant level in the groundwater and soil falls to those regulatory levels, it is deemed a clean site—at least from the government’s perspective. However, the property theoretically is still contaminated. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s25 new petroleum cleanup rule allows natural remediation of certain contaminants under certain conditions without any active cleanup at all.26 Thus, even if the site has been remediated pursuant to all regulatory requirements, there still may be significant contamination present that is left to attenuate naturally.27
Stigma is commonly measured as a percentage of the undamaged value of the subject property, although the method of arriving at that percentage is the subject of a good deal of technical literature. In quantifying stigma, the cost, sales comparison, or income approach in this regard may be useful gauges.28 However, the best proof of the presence or lack of stigma potentially can be comparable sales of environmentally contaminated property, if solid market data exists concerning the sale of contaminated real estate.29 It should be kept in mind, however, that the sales comparison approach in this regard is still in its developmental stages and is used as a confirmatory method of valuation. In determining the magnitude of stigma perceived in the market, it is important for the assessor to consider the various elements. These include 1) closure requirements that may limit the development or use of warehouses and other income-producing structures on the property; 2) nature of the contamination; 3) indemnification provisions; 4) whether it is a Superfund or Super Act site; 5) whether a remediation plan exists and whether there is evidence that the remediation will be effective after a certain timeline; and 6) the existence of state funds for reimbursement of cleanup expenditures ( e.g., those related to petroleum and dry-cleaning solvent contamination).30
Recent Case Law
The following recent cases highlight the success some taxpayers have experienced in reducing their assessments based on cost to cure and stigma arising from environmental contamination:
In Westling v. County of Mille Lacs, 543 N.W.2d 91 (Minn. 1996), the court affirmed the tax court’s reduction of the assessor’s estimated market value of property from almost $1 million to zero. The parcel was contaminated by a degreasing compound and was listed on the Superfund-related list called “CERCLIS.” The Westlings’ expert deducted from the unimpaired property value ($1.35 million) the loss of value resulting from stigma attached to polluted properties and the present value cost of cleanup to arrive at a negative figure for market value of the property as impaired. The court upheld the zero market value even though the property was generating income in the form of rent.
In Woburn Services, Inc., et al. v. Board of Assessors of the City of Woburn, 1996 WL 633778, Mass. App. Tax Bd. Rep. (Docket Nos. 212519–212521, etc., Oct. 22, 1996), the board held that the taxpayers whose properties were contaminated by waste from abutting properties met their burden of proving that, in light of the contamination, the assessors had overvalued their properties.31 The Woburn Services, Inc., properties were adversely affected by the stigma of being located within a Superfund site and/or containing contamination in excess of federal standards. The court agreed with the proposed reductions in light of the extensive and credible evidence provided by the owners’ experts on how the stigma had affected the value of the taxpayers’ properties.
In Commerce Holding Corporation v. Board of Assessors of the Town of Babylon, 88 N.Y.2d 724, 673 N.E.2d 127, 649 N.Y.S.2d 932 (N.Y. Ct Appls. 1996), assessors from the town had valued Commerce’s property at between $1.5 million and $2.6 million each year, from 1986 to 1991. Commerce challenged each yearly assessment on the ground of excessive valuation, contending that the property’s value should have been reduced to account for environmental contamination. Although the town argued against deducting from the value of the property in an uncontaminated state the total remaining cleanup costs each year (as compared with the actual amount expended each year), the court rejected this argument. The court stated that while property must be assessed at market value, there is no fixed method for determining that value and that flexibility is important because there has yet to emerge any single, generally accepted valuation methodology.
The Situation in Florida
Florida courts have not yet dealt directly with contamination for purposes of tax assessments. However, the Florida Supreme Court recently addressed the related question of whether the Department of Transportation (DOT) could present evidence of contamination and its negative effect on fair market value in eminent domain proceedings. In Finkelstein v. Department of Transportation, 656 So. 2d 921 (Fla. 1995), the court answered affirmatively, holding that evidence of contamination is relevant to property value.
In Finkelstein, a gas station site was contaminated by gasoline hydrocarbons. This contamination had been discovered and reported to the FDEP, which determined that the property qualified for the Early Detection Incentive Program (EDI), a government program which reimbursed owners for remediation costs relating to the removal of petroleum contamination. At the time the eminent domain proceeding was initiated, remediation pursuant to the EDI program had already begun.
Prior to the valuation trial, the DOT sought approval to introduce evidence that the site was contaminated, the costs of remediating the site, and other evidence concerning the stigma of contamination and how it affected the value of the property. This proffer was refused by the trial court, and the case was tried as though the property were uncontaminated, because the cost of remediation would be reimbursed by the state under the EDI program. The Finkelstein court approved this fiction, holding that remediation costs were inadmissible whenever a government program for reimbursement of remediation costs exists. The intervention in the “transaction” (condemnation proceeding) by a governmental entity—the EDI program— meant that neither the “seller” (Mrs. Finkelstein) nor the “buyer” (the DOT) would suffer any financial loss on account of the contamination.
The court in Finkelstein expressly limited its holding to situations where a government program for reimbursement of remediation costs exists. The court expressly declined to decide the issue of whether such costs would be admissible in cases where government programs were unavailable. The existence of a governmental program for remediation cost reimbursement was central to the Finkelstein court’s analysis.32 Therefore, it may be presumed that the absence of such a program would allow the introduction of costs to cure in a valuation proceeding. Without a government reimbursement program, the property necessarily suffers a loss in market value because either the seller or buyer will be financially responsible for the contamination.33 However, the court also leaves unresolved the related issue of whether, in situations where reimbursement programs were unavailable, the taxpayer would have to establish both a legal requirement for cleanup and a remedial action plan providing a timetable, before evidence of remediation costs could be admitted into evidence.
Although an eminent domain case, Finkelstein has potential application to the valuation of contaminated property for tax purposes.34 Finkelstein clearly recognized that contamination can “stigmatize” a property, thereby creating a reduction in value resulting from the increased risk associated with contaminated property.35 The court further stated that there “must be a factual basis through evidence of sales of comparable contaminated property upon which to base a determination that contamination has decreased the value of the property.”36 This insistence on market-supported conclusions is consistent with general evidentiary principles which disallow opinion testimony which is merely speculative in nature. Whether the court actually intended to limit appraisers to using only the market approach to value properties stigmatized by contamination remains to be seen. The income approach, specifically with respect to a capitalization rate, is grounded in the market as well. Therefore it too, in theory, could meet the court’s requirements in this regard.
No single consensus has emerged nationally for assessing contaminated property for tax purposes, and no Florida case or statute has addressed the issue directly. Judicial and administrative views of the appropriate methodology for measuring costs to cure and stigma range across the board. With respect to stigma, Finkelstein resolves some issues but leaves many related questions unanswered. In light of the lack of guidance in Florida, one approach would be for the legislature to define by statute or authorize DOR to impose a regulatory guide to proper valuation. Without such guidance, this issue remains uncertain and unpredictable. q
1 In Florida, county property appraisers must complete their assessment of the value of all real property in the state no later than July 1 of each year, absent certain extenuating circumstances, and forward the assessment to taxpayers. Fla. Stat. §193.023(1) (1997). Taxpayers may administratively challenge the assessment pursuant to the procedures set out in Fla. Stat. ch. 194, parts I and II.
2 Although this article primarily discusses value diminution for purposes of property tax, the valuation concepts are equally applicable in other contexts, including just compensation for the condemnation of contaminated property and toxic tort claims brought by a present owner against a former owner, user, or neighbor who is the responsible party.
3 See Burnette v. Town of Somers, 1997 WL 397461, *4 (Conn. Super. June 27, 1997).
4 Fla. Const. art. VII, §4(c)2.
5 Valencia Center, Inc. v. Bystorm, 543 So. 2d 214, 216 (Fla. 1989); Walter v. Schuler, 176 So. 2d 81, 85–86 (Fla. 1965).
6 St. Joe Paper Company v. Brown, 223 So. 2d 311, 313 (Fla. 1969). The Florida Statutes, in particular §193.011, do not specifically require that an assessment not exceed fair market value. That section only requires the property appraiser to take certain factors into consideration. However, Florida courts have interpreted the legislative intent of the statute to require that no assessment exceed fair market value. See Schultz v. TM Florida – Ohio Realty Ltd. Partnership, 553 So. 2d 1203, 1206, fn. 3 (Fla. 1989).
7 Dade County v. Richter’s Jewelry Company, 223 So. 2d 375, 376 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 1969).
8 Department of Revenue v. Adkinson, 409 So. 2d 53, 56 (Fla. 1st D.C.A. 1982). Department of Revenue (DOR) regulations define just value, actual value, and value as the price at which a property, if offered for sale on the open market, with a reasonable time for the seller to find a purchaser, would transfer for cash or its equivalent, under prevailing market conditions between parties who have knowledge of the uses to which the property may be put, both seeking to maximize their gains and neither being in the position to take advantage of the exigencies of the other. Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 12D-1.010(5) (1997).
9 These are the 1) present cash value of the property, which is the amount a willing purchaser would pay a willing seller, in an arms-length transaction, exclusive of selling costs; 2) highest and best use to which the property can be expected to be put in the immediate future and the present use of the property, taking into consideration governmental regulations; 3) location of the property; 4) quantity or size of the property; 5) cost of the property; 6) condition of the property; 7) income from the property; and 8) the net proceeds of the sale of the property. Fla. Stat. §193.011 (1997).
10 McNayr v. Claughton, 198 So. 2d 366, 368 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 1967).
11 See The Appraisal of Real Estate Ch. 25 (The Appraisal Institute, 11th ed. 1996).
12 See Lorraine Lewandrowski, Toxic Blackacre: Appraisal Techniques & Current Trends in Valuation, 5 Alb. L.J. Sci. & Tech. 55, 74–92 (1994).
13 Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Easter, 894 P.2d 1290, 1298 (Wash. 1995).
14 Almor Corp. v. County of Hennepin, 566 N.W.2d 696, 701 (Minn. 1997).
15 See Comerica Bank-Detroit v. Metamora Twp., Mich. Tax Trib. Docket Nos. 103325, 110482, 112529, 1989 WL 56531, *6 (May 12, 1989).
16 See Boekeloo v. Board of Review of the City of Clinton, 529 N.W.2d 275 (Iowa 1995) (court held that the transitory absence of a market does not eliminate value); In re Camel City Laundry Co., 472 S.E.2d 402 (N.C. App. 1996) (court could find no basis for assigning $0 to the property when contamination does not prevent owners from putting property to highest and best use).
17 In re Camel City Laundry Co., 472 S.E.2d at 406.
18 In addition to remediation costs, other costs to cure that are not discussed here include costs relating to additional vacancy while the work is being completed and additional costs of financing and insurance. See Scott B. Arens, The Valuation of Defective Properties: a Common Sense Approach, 65 Appraisal J. 2 (April 1997).
19 See Westling v. County of Mille Lacs, 543 N.W.2d 91 (Minn. 1996); Commerce Holding Corp. v. Board of Assessors of the Town of Babylon, 88 N.Y.2d 724, 731, 673 N.E.2d 127, 130, 649 N.Y.S.2d 932, 935 (N.Y. Ct. Appls. 1996); see also Albert Wilson, The Environmental Opinion: Basis for An Impaired Value Opinion, 62 Appraisal J. 413 (July 1994). Furthermore, courts have held that the value of asbestos-contaminated property may be reduced, in some cases, dollar-for-dollar of the asbestos removal costs. University Plaza Realty Corp. v. City of Hackensack, 12 N.J. Tax 354, 370 (1992), cert. denied, 634 A.2d 527 (N.J. 1993).
20 Badische Corp. v. Town of Kearny, 288 N.J. Super 171, 182, 672 A.2d 186, 192 (1996); Inmar Assocs. v. Borough of Carlstadt, 112 N.J. 593, 604, 605, 549 A.2d 38, 43, 44 (1988). This reasoning ignores the fact that contamination is no more temporary than other conditional defects, such as a leaking roof. Any condition which negatively affects value, temporary or not, is usually reflected in the purchase price.
21 In Inmar Associates, Inc. v. Borough of Carlstadt, 112 N.J. 593, 549 A.2d 38 (N.J. 1988), for example, the taxpayer’s expert subtracted costs of cleanup from the value of the land in a clean state, to reach a negative current market value for the contaminated property. The court rejected this approach, explaining that where the property is capable of productive use but cleanup costs render a negative property value, the cleanup costs could be more appropriately accounted for by adjustment to the projected income stream. Id. at 43–45.
Although Inmar held that full deductibility of cleanup costs is not available, Inmar should not be read too broadly. In Inmar, the estimated cleanup costs exceeded the market value of a comparable uncontaminated site. This resulted in assigning a negative value to property which was in actuality generating rental income. However, if the property was contaminated such that it cannot be used for its intended purpose and cannot produce income, Inmar appears to be inapplicable. In such a case, it is appropriate to allow full reduction in value in the same amount as the costs to cure, even if this results in a zero or negative valuation.
New Jersey environmental laws required contaminated properties to be cleaned up prior to their sale. Because it was only possible for a “clean” property to be sold, the Inmar court concluded that the contamination could not affect market value. The prohibition against selling a contaminated property transformed the cleanup costs from a characteristic of the property affecting market value to a “financial obligation of the property owner.” Id. at 43. See also Vogelgesang v. Cecos Int’l, Inc., 619 N.E.2d 1072 (Ohio 1993).
22 Cost-to-cure damages are often a central issue in property tax valuation cases because the cleanup potentially is to be borne by the taxpayer. However, in common law actions by a present owner against a former owner, user, or neighbor who is the responsible party, the cleanup costs are not an issue because the cleanup has been undertaken by the polluting party. Thus, the only issue in such cases is the amount of stigma damages.
23 See generally Richard Roddewig, Stigma, Environmental Risk and Property Value: 10 Critical Inquiries, 64 Appraisal J. 10 (Oct. 1996).
24 See Michael Sanders, Post-Repair Diminution in Value from Geotechnical Problems, 64 Appraisal J. 2 (Jan. 1996).
25 For purposes of this article, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and its predecessor agencies will hereinafter be referred to as “FDEP.”
26 Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 62-770.
27 The FDEP can also issue “no further action” letters in the case of petroleum contamination sites, which indicate that closure has been handled competently according to FDEP regulatory requirements. Although such letters reduce stigma, this is not to say that post-closure risks are not present. Similarly, EPA may sign commitments to refrain from enforcement of environmental laws applicable to the property. ”Prospective Purchaser Agreement Policy” and “Policy Toward Owners of Property Containing Contaminated Groundwater” 60 Fed. Reg. 34791-94, July 3, 1995.
28 The effect of stigma is represented by a percentage discount in the market approach and by a risk premium component added to the capitalization rate in the income approach. See Almor Corp. v. County of Hennepin, 566 N.W.2d at n. 14. Other newer, although related, approaches include regression analysis, which is a statistical analysis based on a large database of transactions, and contingent valuation, which is normally applied in the context of a CERCLA natural resource damage claim. See generally James A. Chalmers and Scott A. Roehr, Issues in the Valuation of Contaminated Property, 61 Appraisal J. 1, 11, 12 (Jan. 1993).
29 Peter J. Patchin, Contaminated Properties and the Sales Comparison Approach, 62 Appraisal J. 3 (July 1994).
30 See generally Peter J. Patchin, Valuation of Contaminated Properties, 56 Appraisal J. 7–9 (Jan. 1988).
31 Woburn Services, Inc., 1996 WL 633778, Mass. App. Tax Bd. Rep. at 185.
32 An important question left unanswered by Finkelstein is whether the existence of a governmental program for reimbursement of remediation costs, which had not yet been adequately funded, would preclude the introduction of evidence of contamination and costs to cure. For example, Fla. Stat. §376.3078 (1994), established a fund for remediation of drycleaning solvent contamination. However, the program was to be funded by prospective contributions and had no money available for remediation when the act was signed into law on June 3, 1994. Practically speaking, an unfunded governmental program is no program at all.
33 This conclusion is supported by the recent case of Broward County v. LaPointe, 685 So. 2d 889 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 1996), which involved a determination of an award of attorneys’ fees in an eminent domain action. The issue was the amount of monetary benefit the lawyers had obtained for the property owner. The property was contaminated by vinyl chloride in the groundwater, which exceeded standards set by the FDEP. In its initial attempt to negotiate a purchase of this property for an airport expansion, the county made an offer which was conditioned upon the property not being contaminated. If in fact the property were contaminated, the county would be entitled to deduct from the purchase price the estimated costs of cleanup, which were nearly 50 percent of the property’s value. Eventually the case settled, and the LaPointes’ attorney argued that the monetary benefit should be measured by the difference between the final amount set forth in the settlement and the net proceeds the LaPointes would have received under the county’s original offer. The county argued that monetary benefit should be calculated without any adjustment for the cost of environmental cleanup. The court agreed with the LaPointes’ method of calculation based upon the “realistic evaluation of the economic ramifications to the landowner of all the provisions of the original offer.” Significantly, there was no governmental program in place to reimburse the costs to the LaPointes for remediating the contamination on their property. In this respect, LaPointe is consistent with Finkelstein regarding the admissibility of contamination evidence and remediation costs.
34 Indeed, shortly after the Finkelstein decision, the Florida Department of Revenue issued a Property Tax Information Bulletin, titled “Consideration of Contamination in Determining Market Value,” (DAV-95-06 Aug. 1, 1995), addressed to all Florida property appraisers. The bulletin advised them of the substance of the court’s decision in Finkelstein and implied that it should be followed in tax assessment matters.
35 Before Finkelstein, stigma was not directly addressed by Florida courts. The general rule simply stated that damages for injury to real property were limited to the lesser of 1) the cost to repair the property to its condition before the injury or 2) the diminution in value. Davey Compressor Co. v. City of Delray Beach, 639 So. 2d 595, 596 (Fla. 1994); United States Steel Corp. v. Benefield, 352 So. 2d 892 (Fla. 2d D.C.A. 1977), cert. denied, 364 So. 2d 881 (Fla. 1978).
36 Commerce Holding Company, 88 N.Y.2d at 925.
Samuel J. Morley is a partner in the Tallahassee office of Holland & Knight and practices with the firm’s environmental and land use section. He received his B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and his J.D. from Wake Forest University College of Law. Mr. Morley gratefully acknowledges the editorial assistance of Susan L. Stephens of Holland & Knight.
Robert E.V. Kelley, Jr., is a litigation partner in the Tampa office of Holland & Knight, LLP where he focuses his practice on representing clients in property tax and condemnation matters statewide. He is a member of the Tax Section of the Florida Bar and received a B.A. (1981) from the University of Florida and a J.D. (1984) from Stetson University College of Law.
This column is submitted on behalf of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, Bruce M. Stone, chair, and Melissa Murphy and Brian Sparks, editors.