Donald Trump has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County. According to the lawsuit, the Palm Beach International Airport is directing plans over his Mar-a-Lago club. As a result of these air traffic flight patterns, Trump claims the structure is experiencing irreparable damage to its roof, tiles and foundation.
In his complaint against the county, Trump claims the county’s airport directors have encouraged the Federal Aviation Administration to “deliberately and maliciously” direct all flights – including Trump’s plane - due east. This flight pattern causes the planes to fly directly over Mar-a-Lago, which is located just ten minutes away from Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.
Constructed in 1927, Mar-a-Lago was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1980. Five years later, Trump purchased the 110,000 square foot estate for $10 million. After 10 years and extensive renovations, Trump reopened the building as the club that it is today.
While Palm Beach County’s attorneys have yet to actually be served with the complaint, this won’t be the first time Trump has filed a lawsuit against the county. In 1995, Trump filed a lawsuit that resulted in the county leasing him the land that is now Trump International Golf Club. He filed another lawsuit in 2010 claiming that airplanes were creating vibrations that were damaging his club. While this lawsuit was dismissed, these prior legal actions may actually help strengthen Trump’s current case if he is claiming a Private Nuisance.
To successfully win a Private Nuisance case, the claimant must prove that actions were taken to either intentionally, negligently or recklessly interfere with the enjoyment or use of a particular piece of land. Trump could also win his case if he proves that the county continued to send planes over the property despite knowing that it could be causing damage to the structure. With Trump’s prior cases against the county, it will be difficult for the county to claim it was unaware of the issue.
If Trump does successfully prove that the county continued to direct planes over Mar-a-Lago despite the damage it was causing, Trump will then have to prove that his property has sustained enough damage that it would be offensive to an ordinary member of the community. This should not be too difficult to prove since most people would be quite upset by continued damage to their home or property.
Assuming Trump is able to prove both parts of this case, he will then have to demonstrate that there are reasonable alternatives to flying over his Palm Beach property. This will likely involve bringing in traffic control efforts to show that there are other options available to the airport and that, in fact, positioning all of the flights to routinely fly the same route is outside of standard practice.