Case against City advances to Supreme Court as businesses displaced

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear a case against the City of Topeka after local businesses were vacated from their buildings after it bought the properties the
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:44 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Supreme Court will hear a case against the City of Topeka after local businesses were vacated from their buildings after it bought the properties they rented.

The Kansas Supreme Court says that at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, it will hear the case of Appeal No. 123,063: Kansas Fire and Safety Equipment, A Kansas Corporation, Hal G. Richardson d/b/a Bueno Food Brand, Topeka Vinyl Top, and Minuteman Solar Film v. City of Topeka, Kansas.

Court records indicate that multiple month-to-month tenants sued the City for relocation benefits after they were forced to move when the property where they operated their businesses was bought. The district court granted the City summary judgment after it found the tenants were not “displaced persons” under the statute nor did the City intend to condemn the property.

The Supreme Court said it reversed that decision after it found material disputed facts should have prevented summary judgment.

On remand, court records note that the City sought summary judgment on the ground the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the tenants’ claims because state law did not provide the tenants a private right of action. It also repeated its factual arguments that tenants did not qualify for relocation benefits.

The district court again sided with the City and granted summary judgment as it agreed it lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

Court records show that the Court of Appeals held that the district court properly held it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims. The statute used is part of the Eminent Domain Procedure Act. It said even if tenants are “displaced persons” under the Act, nothing permits displaced persons to file an independent action in the district court to seek relocation benefits.

However, the Court of Appeals did say it found a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction should be without prejudice and reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the order granting summary judgment for the City and instead enter an order of dismissal without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

The Court indicated that it will review the following issues:

  • Whether the Court of Appeals decision ignores the primary purpose of the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act,
  • Whether the district court made a mistake when it granted summary judgment,
  • Whether there is any evidence to support the finding that two previous appellate courts did not consider and implicitly found the statute confers subject matter jurisdiction,
  • Whether the Court of Appeals decision renders the statute meaningless,
  • Whether Kansas courts have found subject matter jurisdiction and private rights of action under other state statutes.