Real Estate Litigation
Christine A. Scheuneman
Pillsbury’s Real Estate Litigation team represents owners, developers, banks, investors, railroads and other parties in a wide range of complex real estate-related disputes, including distressed real estate, environmental and land use regulation, real estate development, and financing disputes.
Working collaboratively with the firm’s related practices in Real Estate, Environmental, Financial Services, Insolvency and Tax, our team draws on the experience of attorneys who structure and negotiate underlying real estate transactions, as well as those who help clients navigate state and federal regulations. This comprehensive approach provides our clients a distinct advantage to obtain favorable results.
Pillsbury’s Real Estate Litigation team routinely resolves high-stakes disputes involving owners, tenants, government entities and a wide variety of other businesses and individuals, joint ventures and public private partnerships. We have represented building owners in disputed damages claims, advised clients on property acquisition strategies involving city government, and represented prominent developers in high-impact disputes.
The team has also handled disputes related to life sciences and information technology facilities; power generation, transmission and cogeneration facilities; utilities and transportation; and office building, hotel and mixed-use (commercial/residential) projects. In addition, we provide value during all stages of a real estate project, by identifying potential issues and suggesting ways to help clients limit their exposure and risk.
Some examples of our real estate litigation capabilities are outlined below.
Eminent Domain Disputes
The ability of the government to take over private land has been a significant issue since the country’s founding. Our lawyers have deep experience in all aspect of eminent domain law. We represented an American Indian tribe in its application to take land in federal trust and a major railroad in numerous eminent domain matters involving major highway infrastructure projects impacting railroad operations. Pillsbury also represented a real estate management firm in the first major case in the District of Columbia to test the boundaries of the Supreme Court’s 2005 landmark decision addressing the government’s right to take private property for economic development purposes.
Inverse Condemnation Disputes
When the government seizes or otherwise renders private property unusable, property owners rely on Pillsbury’s experience in inverse condemnation cases. We represented a major railroad in an inverse condemnation action against a local county government, obtaining a $4.5 million settlement after an initial offer of just $20,000.
Pillsbury’s Real Estate Litigation team represents real estate developers in cases ranging from disputed brokerage fees, fund transfers, and property rights, to contract claims. We negotiated favorable settlements for numerous investorsand financial institutions in cases that include large-scale real estate and construction litigation (with purported class actions), accusations of fiduciary breaches and threatened federal enforcement actions. We provided risk and asset analysis for major real estate investment portfolios for some of the nation’s largest institutional investors, asset managers and investment advisors.
In addition, Pillsbury represented a major financial institution in bankruptcy litigation in a matter involving an elaborate Ponzi scheme financed by real estate transactions, a Korean investment bank before an ICDR international arbitration tribunal in a complex contract dispute, and several major financial institutions in litigation arising from fraudulent transactions by mortgage brokers and loan originators in schemes involving multiple lenders/investors and subprime lending practices.
Commercial Lease and Housing Disputes
We represent REITs, government agencies, public private partnerships, landlords and tenants alike in cases throughout the nation. We have secured victories and favorable settlements for clients involved in partnership disputes, landlords seeking to recover unpaid rent, and a publicly traded REIT involved in a commercial lease dispute with a landmark Washington, DC restaurant. We have defended REITs, cities and county housing authorities against a variety of civil rights and race discrimination claims.
Knowledge of underlying real estate transactions and regulations provides our litigators a tangible advantage and helps them to obtain favorable results in challenging disputes. We represented several educational institutions in campus housing and residential disputes with the public, for example, as well as a REIT in an appeal before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals over a grant for a planned urban development.
Attorneys in our environmental and energy groups have litigated cases brought under the National Environmental Policy Act since the statute’s enactment in 1969. We have litigated NEPA cases in the nuclear context and in cases involving decisions by the Department of the Interior, the Postal Service, the Department of Transportation, and other federal agencies. In addition, our California attorneys have deep experience handling matters in connection with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Recent work includes representing a citizens group challenging a city’s approval of an option agreement for the sale of downtown land to build a new major league stadium for a professional baseball team. We successfully argued that the city and its agencies violated state redevelopment and environmental laws, as well as a municipal ordinance that requires a public vote before any ballpark subsidy.
Pillsbury’s Environmental Litigation attorneys handle civil, administrative and criminal matters, representing individuals, companies and other entities in cases under all of the major federal environmental statutes and the laws of many states. Our clients are active in a wide range of manufacturing businesses, as well as pharmaceutical, chemical, energy, research and development, and retail businesses.
Recently we represented a real estate company in claims for property damage caused by asbestos-containing fireproofing material, and defended a city against a CERCLA claim for indemnity and contribution brought by a shopping center operator alleging that leaks from a sewer contaminated its property.
Property Tax Disputes
Pillsbury has an unparalleled reputation for handling the most complex tax matters involving nearly every local and state taxing jurisdiction. We have represented Indian tribes in a case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, obtaining a reversal of the district court’s summary judgment, and allowing joint venture to operate without being subject to county property tax.
Our lawyers also represented a Fortune 50 energy company before both the California Assessment Appeals Board and the Superior Court to reduce property taxes on one of the company’s major refineries, and obtained broad injunctive relief and civil contempt orders for a client who invested over $18 million in a number of real estate-based entities. We represent a leading satellite television provider that is appealing property tax assessments for specific equipment throughout numerous counties in the State of California, as well as appealing various property tax assessments in Los Angeles County.
Wherever train tracks are laid or pipelines pass through property, there are issues of easement and boundary to be resolved. Our team has significant experience with all variations of these disputes. For example, we recently represented a railroad in the valuation of 1,850 miles of pipeline easements on railroad property in a 265-day trial spanning four years and resulting in a $100 million judgment for back rent due.