Court Upholds Hepburn Property Damages Award

(CN) – Connecticut property developers are entitled to $2.2 million in damages after buying actress Katharine Hepburn’s former beachfront home with an unclear title, the state appeals court ruled.
     The 3.5-acre property is located on Long Island Sound in the borough of Fenwick. In 2004, developers Fenwick Acquisition LLC and 273 Water Street LLC bought the property for $6 million.
     At that time, the developers bought a policy from First American Title Insurance. The developers divided the property into three lots and put them on the market for a total of $30 million.
     However, the borough of Fenwick claimed that it owned a 30-foot discontinued road on the property. The developers made a claim to First American, which sent a check for $17,000.
     The developers refused to cash the check, claiming a loss of approximately $5 million.
     Both sides took the case to court, and the developers settled the dispute with Fenwick. An easement allowed runners and bikers to use a foot path on the portion of land in question.
     The trial court ruled in the developers’ favor, awarding them $2.2 million. First American appealed, but the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld the verdict in a ruling written by Judge Robert E. Beach Jr.
     He disagreed with First American’s argument that the defendants lacked standing to sue because they had transferred the disputed property to a third party.
     Also, Beach refuted First American’s claim that the testimony from the defendants’ expert on his theory of “celebrity enhancement” of the property value should have been dismissed as “junk science.”
     “A real estate appraisal based in part on a celebrity enhancement theory is not likely improperly to arouse the emotions of the jury,” Beach wrote on behalf of the court’s three-judge panel. “It was not likely to arouse in the jury feelings of hostility or sympathy, nor did it reflect unfavorably on the plaintiff.”
     Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96. She won Best Actress Oscars for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981).

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