Friedmans dismiss their legal dispute against Currituck


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

CURRITUCK – Members of the Friedman family, who saw their more than $39 million damage award against Currituck County turned back at the state appellate court level, have decided to dismiss their case against the county— at least for the time being.

Attorney Mitch Armbruster of Raleigh, representing the Friedmans, said in a statement on Monday afternoon his clients are dismissing the case without prejudice. A dismissal of a legal dispute without prejudice means future legal action is possible.

Specifically, Armbruster said the dismissal allows his clients to re-file the case within a year if the county remains unwilling to recognize their property rights or seek a reasonable compromise resolution.

The Friedmans have long argued they believe Currituck denied them their legal rights to develop the commercial part of their property in the Swan Beach part of the northern Currituck Outer Banks.

The Friedman family, after unsuccessful attempts to resolve the matter with the county, filed suit in 2012 in Currituck Superior Court.

The Friedmans argued they wanted to build a convenience store, real estate offices, a post office and a restaurant, as support for residential development in the far northern part of the Currituck Outer Banks.

The Friedmans, who bought land in the off-road area of the Currituck Outer Banks in 1966, argued they have a secured legal right to develop their properties free from zoning ordinances or regulations eventually put in place.

Armbruster said although his clients believe the appellate courts excused the county’s failures to follow lower court rules and the penalty assessed for those failures, his clients remain confident in the merits of their case.

Ambruster also said his clients are disappointed the county continues to deny their right “to exercise fundamental property rights," as recognized by dissenting state Appellate Judge Phil Berger, while allowing other commercial businesses to operate in the off-road area.

However, Armbruster said due to the death of Gerald Friedman, 90, who died in September, as well as the need to complete the administration of his estate and related claims before proceeding further with the property rights action, the family is electing to dismiss the case without prejudice at this time.

Armbruster said the dismissal papers were being mailed to the court system for filing.

County Manager Dan Scanlon, when reached on Monday afternoon, said he hadn't seen the dismissal and said he and his fellow county officials would rather wait until they obtain and read the documentation before commenting.

The N.C. Supreme Court, in a brief ruling on May 11, in effect, threw out a judgement Superior Court Judge Milton "Toby" Fitch awarded in April 2016 to Swan Beach Corolla, which is led by the Friedman family.

The state's highest court on April 17 had heard the matter after an appeal following a divided opinion issued by the N.C. Court of Appeals on Oct. 3 that sided with Currituck.

N.C. Court of Appeals judges issue rulings in panels of threes. In the Oct. 3 ruling, Appellate Judges Lucy Inman and Rick Elmore comprised the majority, with Judge Berger in the minority.

Armbruster, in his statement on Monday afternoon, said, "The family still hopes that Gerald Friedman’s vision for Swan Beach, though he will be unable to see it, can one day be realized."

Friedman, a Norfolk, Virginia, native, reportedly developed more than 6,800 acres on the Outer Banks. He also was a minority owner of the Virginia Squires of the former American Basketball Association.