Lowball Watch – Connecticut Again

The Connecticut Supreme Court opinion in Town of Branford v. Santa Barbara, 988 A.2d 209 (Conn. 2010) relates how the Town of Branford filed a condemnation action in which it deposited $1,167,800, for land for which the owner paid $2.11 million in the early 1990s. But in the ensuing valuation trial the town put on appraisal testimony opining to a value of $770,000, based on an opinion of highest and best use of having “the land remain vacant and undeveloped.” The trial judge (Connecticut does not allow juries in eminent domain cases) awarded $4.6 million, or about four times the amount of the deposit, and about six times the condemnor’s evidence of value.

Afterthought. This may be a sign of advancing old age, but we almost forgot to mention that in a parallel 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 action, the court awarded $340,000 to the owners as compensation for the town’s “bad faith in in exercising its power of eminent domain.” Read all about it in New England Estates v. Town of Branford, 988 A.2d 229 (Conn. 2010). The trial court had also awarded $12,435,914 to an optionee, but the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed that award on the grounds that in Connecticut an option is not a compensable property interest. We’ll have more to say about that.

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