Judge rules in favor of PennDOT, orders Route 28 landowner to vacate
An Allegheny County judge ruled Monday that a West Deer man must accept a settlement his former attorney brokered to settle an eminent domain case for the region’s largest highway construction project.
Common Pleas Judge Michael E. McCarthy also ruled that William C. Lieberth Sr., owner of Allegheny Auto Body on Route 28 in the North Side, must vacate the business property by Oct. 1 and pay his former attorney $31,565.
Lieberth, 56, fought for more than three years to keep his property, although PennDOT says it made a deal to acquire it on Aug. 1, court documents show. About two weeks ago, Lieberth fired attorney Harvey Robins after the lawyer brokered a $248,803 settlement with PennDOT on his behalf, claiming he didn’t approve it.
“There can be little real controversy in this matter that an enforceable agreement was reached and must be honored,” McCarthy wrote in his decision, noting that Lieberth asked PennDOT’s chief negotiator in an Aug. 14 email to enter into a settlement agreement without Robins so he could avoid legal fees that would eat up one-third of the settlement.
Lieberth argued that he refused to sign a settlement agreement, but McCarthy wrote that “a settlement entered into in anticipation of trial or verdict is enforceable even if not yet reduced to writing.” PennDOT filed notice to take Lieberth’s property by eminent domain in April 2009 — about 1½ years before it began a $120 million project to remake Route 28 as a four-lane, limited access highway with no traffic signals between Pittsburgh and Kittanning. The project is expected to be completed in late 2014.
This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.