A class action lawsuit dating back to 2004 has finally been settled involving the owners of property bordering Lake Erie in Ohio who filed against the State of Ohio (State), in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). As part of the settlement, affected current and past landowners may qualify for reimbursement if they file the necessary claim form by October 12 of this year.

At the heart of the lawsuit was the State’s claim of public trust ownership up to the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) of Lake Erie. It was back in 2011 that the Ohio Supreme Court weighed in with its opinion that the State’s title in trust to Lake Erie is actually the natural shoreline and not the OHWM. This led to years of litigation and fact finding between the various parties, resulting in the current settlement.

Although neither the State nor the ODNR have admitted any wrongdoing or legal liability in the case, the Plaintiffs and Defendants agreed to a settlement to avoid the additional costs and potential negative consequences of going to trial.

If you owned or co-owned property bordering Lake Erie (including Sandusky Bay and other areas previously determined to be a part of Lake Erie under Ohio Law) within the territorial boundaries of the State of Ohio, you are likely covered under this settlement agreement. Likewise, if you were a lessee under a submerged lands lease with ODNR between May 28, 1998 and May 20, 2015, that used OHWM as the boundary of the State’s public trust ownership, you are also likely covered and may qualify for compensation.

The Court in charge of this case has yet to approve the settlement. Assuming approval is granted and no appeals are filed, payments will be disbursed based on the terms of the Stipulation and the information you provide on the claim form. Payments will be calculated for each parcel of affected property and will be impacted by such considerations as length of frontage on Lake Erie, length of time you owned the property, alterations made to the property and the existence of rental payments, among others.

An official claim form must be received by October 12, 2016. Upon submitting a claim form, you will be bound by the terms of the settlement. You cannot receive a payment without submitting a claim form.

Full details of the settlement, along with a QandA, can be found at www.LakeErieSettlement.com. Or you can call 1-844-36-2770 for more information.

John W. Waldeck, Jr. is a partner in the Real Estate Services Group of the Cleveland-based law firm of Walter | Haverfield LLP.