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Court tosses lawsuit by Moroun companies aimed at stopping new bridge


Larry Peplin
MDOT is seeking to take up to one-third of Moroun family's 300-bay Central Transport trucking terminal and fueling station on Jefferson Avenue to make way for the bridge landing and space for construction operations.

A Michigan Court of Claims judge on Tuesday tossed out a lawsuit filed by six companies owned by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun that sought to challenge construction of a new Detroit River bridge to Canada.

Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that the Moroun-owned companies' late December 2015 challenge of Gov. Rick Snyder's June 2012 crossing agreement was beyond a one-year statute of limitation for filing a lawsuit against the state.

Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co., Central Transport LLC, Crown Enterprises Inc., Riverview-Trenton Railroad Co., CE Detroit LLC and DIBDetroit LLC own 17 parcels in Detroit's Delray neighorhood that are in the path of the bridge's landing and customs plaza that will be linked to I-75.

On Dec. 29, the companies filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the crossing agreement Snyder forged with Canadian for Canada to finance the new Gordie Howe International Bridge

The Republican governor's action effectively went around the GOP-controlled Legislature, which had blocked for years Michigan's involvement in building a new publicly owned bridge that would compete for lucrative truck traffic with Moroun's 88-year-old span.

Stephens said the companies should have sued within a year of the agreement being forged.

"They seek to challenge the validity of the agreement from its inception, which is entirely unrelated to the condemnation proceedings, and which could have been raised regardless of the condemnation proceedings," Stephens wrote.

Moroun's loss at the Court of Claims is the latest setback in a yearslong political and legal battle the billionaire trucking mogul and his family companies have waged to block a competitor and build a twin span to the Ambassador Bridge.

Stephens also rejected a challenge to the way the state is getting reimbursed by Canada for purchasing property for the bridge. She said the lawsuit surpassed a one-year statute of limitations to sue over that restricted state spending.

The Moroun companies also had challenged how the Michigan Department of Transportation is using condemnation to take land needed for the bridge's landing, customs plaza and connection to I-75.

MDOT is seeking to take up to one-third of Moroun family's 300-bay Central Transport trucking terminal and fueling station on Jefferson Avenue to make way for the bridge landing and space for construction operations.

Moroun owns 21 mostly vacant parcels of land within the project's boundaries.

Crain's reported in February that the Moroun family of companies are among several businesses battling MDOT over valuation of the property in Delray.

In her written ruling issued Tuesday, Stephens said the condemnation proceedings were beyond the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims, which handles legal disputes involving state agencies and officials.

"This court does not have the power to hear and determine condemnation claims," the judge wrote.

MDOT attorneys have previously argued that Moroun's companies used the late December lawsuit as a preemptive strike against its plans to pursue condemnation of the property after early January deadlines.

The state transportation agency continues to pursue condemnation proceedings against Moroun's companies in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Wayne County Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. previously refused to allow a delay in those proceedings pending Stephens' ruling in the Court of Claims case.

The judge called the legal tactic "procedurally improper action in the Court of Claims."

Former Attorney General Mike Cox, who represented the Moroun companies in the lawsuit, said early Tuesday afternoon that he had not yet seen the ruling and declined to comment.

Source of article click here : CRAIN'S

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