Federal District Court Holds Plaintiff Has Pled Substantive Due Process Claim Against City For Demolishing His Building

| Jan 7, 2014 | Firm News

The Rhode Island federal district court has held that a property owner has adequately pled a substantive due process violation where, in response to the City’s “Order to Make Safe through Demolition,” plaintiff provided the City with an engineer’s report that the building did not have major structural damage but the City demolished it anyway and put a lien on plaintiff’s property for the $6300 cost of demolition. The court denied the City’s motion to dismiss the complaint.

Plaintiff’s property was damaged by fire. In November 2012, City issued him an “Order to Make Safe through Demolition.” Plaintiff appealed the order. He retained an engineer who provided a report that the building had not sustained major structural damage. Plaintiff provided that report to the City. In March 2013, without further consultation or notice, the City demolished Plaintiff’s building.

A substantive due process claim does not rest “on perceived procedural deficiencies but on the idea that the government’s conduct, regardless of procedural swaddling, was itself impermissible.” The plaintiff must show that the conduct of a government official or agency is “shocking or violative of universal standards of decency.” Stated another way, the government conduct must be “egregiously unacceptable, outrageous, or conscience-shocking.”

The court said that if plaintiff’s allegations are true, they could be arguably deemed to shock the conscience. Resolution of the issue requires further development of the record.

Bullock v. Lombardi, C.A. 13-670, 2013 WL 6331105 (D.R.I. Dec. 5, 2013)

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