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Dare settles lawsuit with non-resident property owners

Dare County commissioners agreed unanimously to settle a federal civil lawsuit filed by non-resident property owners denied entry to Dare at beginning of the county’s coronavirus response.

After an almost hour-long closed session July 6, Robert L. Outten, county manager and attorney, presented the settlement outline for action by the board.

In the settlement, Dare County will consider non-resident property owners as residents during a public health emergency. The agreement defines family members and public health emergency. The agreement does not change the status of non-resident property owners during a hurricane.

The complaint alleges that Dare County failed to adopt an emergency management ordinance. Dare County did adopt a resolution rather than an ordinance for the Emergency Management chapter in Dare’s Code of Ordinances. To cure this allegation, Outten reported that he would bring “Chapter 92 Emergency Management” to the board to adopt as an ordinance at the next board meeting, July 20.

The commissioners agreed to pay costs of the action amounting to $16,500 lawyer fees, plus $400 in court costs and other associated costs. Dare County has already paid the mediator $3,300, which was charged against the legal services account.

In the settlement, Dare County does not admit liability. The plaintiffs will dismiss the civil action with prejudice.

A draft document was not available at press time from Dare County.

Due to COVID-19, Dare County declared a State of Emergency March 16, 2020. A second declaration was issued March 20 prohibiting entry of non-resident visitors and non-resident property owners. Check points were established to prevent entry by non-residents. The property owners in the lawsuit could not lawfully enter Dare County at that point.

Phased entry for non-resident property owners started Monday, May 4 and concluded Friday, May 8. Entry permits were required.
The legal action was filed by S.C. Kitchen with Kitchen & Turrentine, PLLC, of Raleigh.

Plaintiffs were John P. Bailey from South Carolina, E. Thompson Bailey from Virginia, Paul W. Michael Jr. and Sheryl S. Michael from Virginia and Todd A. Edgar and Babette S. Edgar from Maryland.

Outten reported that the opioid lawsuit was discussed July 6, but no action was taken.

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Federal lawsuit filed by non-resident property owners

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