Habitat, Pinebluff Reach Settlement in Lawsuit
A suit brought by the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity against Pinebluff has been settled out of court, attorneys announced Monday.
“The terms are confidential,” said Mike Newman, who represented a number of defendants in the case. In a brief telephone conversation Tuesday morning, Habitat’s lawyer Dudley Humphrey confirmed that a deal had been worked out, but would not comment on any details.
“The ink is not dry,” Humphrey said, promising to make more information available when possible. As Pinebluff is a municipality, its actual situation will eventually be public.
In May 2009, Habitat filed suit over a deal in which property in Pinebluff was bought out from under the nonprofit group. Habitat had planned a residential development on Thunder Road, but was thwarted when the town board refused to issue required permits. After a court ruled the town was wrong, Habitat was told somebody else now owned the land.
Habitat sued Mayor Earlene McLamb, town commissioners and town attorney William Morgan personally as well as in their official capacities. They sued the sellers and buyers of the property as well.
The suit claimed “tortious interference” with Habitat’s existing contract on the property. Assisted by attorneys from the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Habitat claimed civil rights violations.
The original claim alleged the mayor and the board of Pinebluff worked together to interfere with a contract Habitat had to buy land along Thunder Road for new homes, and that Morgan helped them do it.
Responding, attorneys for the town claimed commissioners could not be sued personally for their actions as officials under an ancient doctrine called “sovereign immunity,” which generally, with some exceptions, bars such claims.
In March, both sides agreed to a strategic move removing the personal claims against the mayor and the board. Habitat's attorneys agreed to a voluntary dismissal of those claims, and that took sovereign immunity off the table as well.
As the case was called Monday, the court was informed it had been settled.
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