description



California Verdicts

Find out about the most important recent California cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco and San Diego counties.

Subscribe to VerdictSearch for access to all California verdictsPricing Options

Historical mine operators claimed county revoked right to mine

Amount:

$106,875,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

California

Venue:

Federal

Court:

United States District Court, Eastern District, Sacramento

Case Type:

Civil Rights - 42 USC 1983; Constitutional Law - Due Process, Fourteenth Amendment

Case Name:

Joseph Hardesty and Yvette Hardesty v. Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, David Grose, James Goldstene, Office of Mine Reclamation, Dennis O'Bryant, Gay Norris, California State Mining and Geology Board, Steve Testa, Zachary Simmons, California Department of Fish and Game, Liz Gregory, Sacramento County, Robert Sherry, Cindy Storelli, Leighann Moffitt, Bret M. Koehler, Curt Taras, and United States Army Corps of Engineers / Jay L. Schneider, Susan J. Schneider, Jake J. Schneider, Leland A. Schneider, Katherine A. Schneider, Leland H. Schneider and Jared T. Schneider v. County of Sacramento, Roger Dickinson, Robert Sherry, Jeff Gamel, Cindy Storelli, Leighann Moffitt, Tammy Derby, Carl Simpson, and David Bieber, No. 2:10-cv-02414-KJM-KJN; 2:12-cv-02457-KJM

Date:

March 21, 2017

Plaintiff(s):

Joseph Hardesty (Male), 

Yvette Hardesty (Female), 

Jay L. Schneider (Male), 

Jake J. Schneider (Male), 

Jared T. Schneider (Male), 

Susan J. Schneider (Female), 

Leland A. Schneider (Male), 

Leland H. Schneider (Male), 

Katherine A. Schneider (Female)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

G. David Robertson; Robertson, Johnson, Miller & Williamson; Reno, NV, for Joseph Hardesty, Yvette Hardesty ■ Glenn W. Peterson; Millstone, Peterson & Watts, LLP; Roseville, CA, for Jay L. Schneider, Jake J. Schneider, Jared T. Schneider, Susan J. Schneider, Leland A. Schneider, Leland H. Schneider, Katherine A. Schneider ■ Collin J. Cox; Yetter Coleman LLP; Houston, TX, for Joseph Hardesty, Yvette Hardesty ■ R. Paul Yetter; Yetter Coleman LLP; Houston, TX, for Joseph Hardesty, Yvette Hardesty ■ Robert K. Ellis; Yetter Coleman LLP; Houston, TX, for Joseph Hardesty, Yvette Hardesty ■ Richard M. Ross; Law Office of Richard M. Ross; Lincoln, CA, for Jay L. Schneider, Jake J. Schneider, Jared T. Schneider, Susan J. Schneider, Leland A. Schneider, Leland H. Schneider, Katherine A. Schneider

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Don Olsen; P.E., P.G.; Geotechnical Engineering; Chico, CA called by: Glenn W. Peterson, R. Paul Yetter ■ Jeff Light; P.G.; Geology; Sacramento, CA called by: Glenn W. Peterson, R. Paul Yetter ■ Cheryl Bly-Chester; Ph.D., P.E.; Environmental; Roseville, CA called by: Glenn W. Peterson, R. Paul Yetter ■ Gilbert Coleman; Ph.D.; Economics; Reno, NV called by: Glenn W. Peterson, R. Paul Yetter

Defendant(s):

Curt Taras, 

Gay Norris, 

Jeff Gamel, 

David Grose, 

Liz Gregory, 

Steve Testa, 

Tammy Derby, 

Carl Simpson, 

David Bieber, 

Robert Sherry, 

Cindy Storelli, 

Bret M. Koehler, 

Dennis O'Bryant, 

James Goldstene, 

Roger Dickinson, 

Zachary Simmons, 

Leighann Moffitt, 

Sacramento County, 

Office of Mine Reclamation, 

United States Army Corps of Engineers, 

California Department of Fish and Game, 

California State Mining and Geology Board, 

Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District

Defense Attorney(s):

Mark P. O'Dea; Longyear, O'Dea & Lavra, LLP; Sacramento, CA, for Jeff Gamel, Robert Sherry, Roger Dickinson, Sacramento County ■ Richard E. Morton; Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP; Santa Ana, CA, for Jeff Gamel, Robert Sherry, Roger Dickinson, Sacramento County ■ Gregory P. O'Dea; Longyear, O'Dea & Lavra, LLP; Sacramento, CA, for Jeff Gamel, Robert Sherry, Roger Dickinson, Sacramento County ■ None reported; for Curt Taras, Gay Norris, David Grose, Liz Gregory, Steve Testa, Tammy Derby, Carl Simpson, David Bieber, Cindy Storelli, Bret M. Koehler, Dennis O'Bryant, James Goldstene, Zachary Simmons, Leighann Moffitt, Office of Mine Reclamation, United States Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Game, California State Mining and Geology Board, Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District

Defendant Expert(s):

Steven Hazel; Valuation; Los Angeles, CA called by: Mark P. O'Dea, Gregory P. O'Dea

Facts:

In April 2009, and again in April 2010, plaintiffs Joseph Hardesty and Yvette Hardesty, operators of the "Schneider Historic Mine," a sand-and-gravel mine located off of Meiss Road, in the Sloughhouse area of eastern Sacramento County, were ordered to shut down the mine until they could obtain a use permit and rezone. The Hardestys leased the mine from the Schneider family cattle ranching and mining operation, which had been mining on the land with "vested rights," and with approval from Sacramento County, without controversy since the 1930s. However, in April 2009 and April 2010, the county ordered a shutdown of the Hardestys' mine because their "vested rights" no longer protected the operation. As a result, the mine needed to secure a use permit and rezone. The Hardestys claimed that the county closed their mine because it was unduly influenced by Teichert Construction, a gravel-mining company that mined near the Schneider land in eastern Sacramento County, which allegedly wanted the Schneider Historic Mine taken out as a business competitor. The Hardestys sued Sacramento County, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, David Grose, James Goldstene, the Office of Mine Reclamation, Dennis O'Bryant, Gay Norris, the California State Mining and Geology Board, Steve Testa, Zachary Simmons, the California Department of Fish and Game, Liz Gregory, Robert Sherry, Cindy Storelli, Leighann Moffitt, Bret Koehler, Curt Taras, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Hardestys alleged that the defendants' actions constituted violations of their procedural and substantive due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The Schneider family, which owned the land and consisted of Jay Schneider, Susan Schneider, Jake Schneider, Leland A. Schneider, Katherine Schneider, Leland H. Schneider, and Jared Schneider, also brought a separate action against the county of Sacramento, Sherry, Storelli, and Moffitt. In addition, they sued Roger Dickinson, Jeff Gamel, Tammy Derby, Carl Simpson, and David Bieber. The Schneider family also alleged that the defendants' actions constituted violations of their procedural and substantive due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The matters were ultimately joined for trial. Several of the defendants were dismissed either by the court or the plaintiffs prior to trial. In addition, defense counsel for Dennis O'Bryant, a former state employee of the Office of Mine Reclamation, moved for summary judgment, but the motion was denied. As a result, O'Bryant filed an appeal regarding the district court's decision to deny his summary judgment motion, and the district court subsequently stayed the claims against him in light of his interlocutory appeal. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial against only the county, former county supervisor Roger Dickinson, retired county planning director Robert Sherry, and retired county aggregate resource manager Jeff Gamel. Plaintiffs' counsel contended that county officials routinely inspected the Schneider Historic Mine and found no violations or improprieties until Teichert complained in mid-2007. Counsel contended that, thereafter, county officials met regularly with Teichert to discuss ways to force the mine to secure a costly use permit, amend its county-approved reclamation plan, and post a much larger reclamation deposit. Counsel contended that as a result, planning officials, allegedly acting on complaints from Teichert, found the plaintiffs' operation in violation of zoning ordinances. Plaintiffs' counsel asserted that the county demanded that the Schneiders obtain a conditional use permit, secure an amended reclamation plan, and post a much greater bond to reclaim the land, jumping from $164,000 to $8.8 million. Thus, counsel argued that Teichert's newer mines required expensive permits and was envious that the Schneider Historic Mine enjoyed a vested right and was able to offer better prices to customers of aggregate. The county's counsel contended that the Schneider plaintiffs twice challenged the board of supervisors' action, which denied the Schneiders' appeal, in Sacramento Superior Court, but that the Schneiders wound up dropping their cases. Counsel also contended that the county never revoked the plaintiffs' vested right to mine, rather, the county required the plaintiffs to apply for a conditional use permit based on the undisputed evidence that the plaintiffs' mining operation had expanded well beyond the parameters covered by the plaintiffs' vested right. Defense counsel noted that in 1994, the county recognized a vested right to mine on only 300 acres of the plaintiffs' 3500 acres, based on historical evidence provided by the plaintiffs that established limited historical mining occurring on those portions of the property. In 2002, the plaintiffs submitted a reclamation plan for approval by the county, claiming that they were conducting a small mining operation, consisting of three to four acres per year, of limited volume and production. Within four years, the plaintiffs had expanded the mining operation, excavating in excess of 80 acres of deep pits adjacent to the south bank of the Cosumnes River and ramping up production to 20 times the previously stated limited volume of production. Defense counsel contended that as a result, the County Board of Supervisors made a determination that the expansion, enlargement, intensification, and increased volume of production were not covered by the previous recognition of a vested right. Thus, under the authority of the California Supreme Court case Hansen Brothers Enterprises Inc. v. Board of Supervisors (1996), the Board of Supervisors determined that the mining operation required a conditional use permit and a rezone, as the area where the plaintiffs' property is located was not zoned for surface mining under the county's zoning code. However, defense counsel argued that, consistent with the plaintiffs' longstanding practice of avoiding compliance with zoning and other state law and regulations, the plaintiffs refused to apply for a conditional use permit and a rezone. Accordingly, counsel argued that at no time did the county deny the conditional use permit, as the plaintiffs never applied for one.

Injury:

Plaintiffs' counsel contended that the county ultimately prevented the Hardestys from continuing their mining business on the Schneider land, including selling valuable stockpiles of aggregate. Counsel argued that this deprived the two families of millions of dollars in past and future lost profits and royalties, leaving the aggregate deposits on the land worthless and the mining business devastated and closed down. Thus, plaintiff's counsel argued that the plaintiffs lost their business and source of mining income in the amount of up to $80 million for the Hardestys and up to $40 million for the Schneiders. Defense counsel noted that the damages sought by the plaintiffs arose from the alleged inability to mine over the next 50 to 100 years. The defense's valuation expert estimated that the plaintiffs' losses were less than $5 million in total.

Result:

The jury found that the county violated all of the plaintiffs' procedural due process rights and substantive due process rights. It also found that the county violated the Schneiders' rights to petition the government for redress, and that Sherry's conduct harmed the Hardestys and was malicious, oppressive or in reckless disregard of the Hardesty's rights. The jury further found that Sherry, Gamel, and Dickinson's conduct harmed the Schneiders and was malicious, oppressive or in reckless disregard of the Schneiders' rights. On March 21, 2017, the jury determined that the plaintiffs' damages totaled $106,875,000, which was comprised of $105,000,000 in actual damages and $1,875,000 in punitive damages. In order to obtain final judgment against the defendants at trial, the plaintiffs moved to sever all adjudicated claims from the remaining claims against O'Bryant. However, since filing the motion, the plaintiffs settled with O'Bryant. As a result, the Ninth Circuit dismissed O'Bryant's appeal. In addition, the trial court dismissed the remaining claims against defendants O'Bryant, Norris, Testa, Koehler and Taras, with prejudice. Thereafter, judgment was entered in accordance with the jury verdict on June 9, 2017.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Kimberly J. Mueller

Trial Length:

18  days

Trial Deliberations:

1.5  days

Jury Vote:

Unanimous

Jury Composition:

5 male/ 4 female

Post Trial:

The county contended that the federal court lacked jurisdiction to hear the plaintiffs' claims, as the plaintiffs had failed and refused to exhaust state judicial remedies available under C.C.P. ยง 1094.5, and because the decision of the Board of Supervisors requiring a conditional use permit was entitled to preclusive and binding effect, and could not be re-litigated or reconsidered by federal courts. Thus, the county will file post-trial motions, seeking a reversal of the verdict.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel and defense counsel for the county, Gamel, Dickinson and Sherry. Information was also gleaned from court documents. Counsel for the remaining defendants were not asked to contribute.