Archive for the ‘Lowball Watch’ Category

Lowball Watch — The Feds

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

A tip of our hat to Dwight Merriam for alerting us to a new U.S. Court of Federal Claims decision, Lost Tree Village Corp. v. United States, No. 08-117L, opinion filed March 14, 2014.

This was an inverse condemnation case arising out of the denial of a federal development permit under Section 404, and the valuation figures of both sides painted a stark picture. Following an earlier detour to the Federal Circuit on the issue of liability, once liability was found, and the case went to a valuation trial, the owner contended that the before value (with permit) was $4,285,000, and the after value (without the permit) was $25,000. The government contended for a before value of $3,910,000, and an after value of $30,000.

The court found a taking using the Penn Central three-factor approach, and awarded $4,217,887.93, with attorneys fees to be calculated later. For earlier rounds of this litigation, see 100 Fed.Cl. 412 (2011) and 707 F.3d 1286 (Fed.Cir. 2013),

You can find a link to the entire 15-page opinion in today’s post on Robert Thomas’ blog

Lowball Watch — Texas

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 reports a condemnation case from Cleburne, Texas, as follows. The taking was by Peregrine Pipelineline Co. for a mile long pipeline easement, from Eagle Ford Land Partners. The offer was $80,000. The jury awarded $1.6 million, and after the court added interest, the total award came to $2.1 million. The controversy centered on the presence vel non of severance damages. PR Newswire, Texas Landowners Win $2.1 Million Judgment Against Pipeline Company Over Lower Property Value, March 24, 2014..


Lowball Watch — Louisiana

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

We are informed that in an eminent domain case in Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, the Parish originally deposited $236,492.90, to which it added another $48,7899.18. The case then went to trial where after four days of trial (March 17-20, 2014), the jury awarded additional compensation, bringing the total up to $959,448.23, plus interest as well as attorneys and expert fees to be calculated later.

The case is Terrebone Parish Consolidated Government v. CMM Properties, LLC, No. 165775, 

Lowball Watch — New York

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The AAA-Electricians case was a taking of 18.8 acres by the Village of Haverstraw which then transferred the subject land to a developer. The  village offered the owners $3,480,000, and it made an “advance payment” of $2,596,150, claiming a miscalculation. But at trial, the village came in with an opinion of value of $1,512,000, less $512,000 for cleanup. While this went on, the village resold the property to a developer for $3.5 million.

The trial court (there are no juries in New York condemnation trials) found that the village acted in bad faith and awarded $6,500,000 as just compensation for the taking.

On appeal. Held: affirmed.

For a more detailed writeup of this case by Michael Rikon, the owner’s counsel, go to

Lowball Watch — Colorado

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Word reaches us informally that the case in Boulder County, Colorado, involving the taking of the old Dillard’s department store in Longmont for redevelopment has been resolved. We lack any details — which we will supply when we get them. But the essentials are that the redevelopment agency offered some $3 million, but after a trial on the right to take (which went in favor of the redevelopment agency) the case settled for over $6 million.

Earlier, a local court ruled in favor of the redevelopment agency on the right to take, with the valuation trial to take place later. But it looks like there won’t be any valuation trial because the parties have agreed on compensation at a figure about twice what the redevelopment agency had originally offered.

The case is Boulder County District Court, Longmont Urban Renewal Agency v. DSS Uniter, LLC, Case No. 13 CV30828.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Lowball Watch — Mississippi

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

This is quite a story, and it comes to us from Gulfport, Mississippi. Mary Perez, Jury Awards Dedeaux Utility $8.1 Million Plus Interest,  The Sun Herald, Dec., 23, 2013.  This was the third trial, which gives you a hint of what is going on here. In 2004, the city took Dedeaux Utility Co., a local utility, and the jury awarded $3.6 million. The city appealed, and the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded  for another trial, in which the [second] jury awarded $5.1 million. The city didn’t take the hint and appealed again, getting another reversal from the appellate court, and yet another (third) trial, in which the jury awarded $8,063,981, plus interest.

The Sun Herald story fails to disclose what the city’s offer or evidence was, but it does tell us that the city now owes the Dedeaux Utility Company another $3.6, plus about $3 million in interest. Do you think the city will appeal again?

What is interesting to us is how much money the city and the Mississippi courts have spent to far on this caper, which might give us a clue as to how big this lowball was and whether this game is worth the candle. Maybe we will find out. Stay tuned just in case.

Lowball Watch — Oklahoma

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

This one’s a doozy. The Associated press (Dec. 3, 2013) reports that  the school board of Jenks, Oklahoma,  offered $395,000 for 12.7 acres of the Taylor’s land, but the commissioners awarded $1.4 million. When the matter was then tried to a jury, it awarded $3.1 million. However, at this point, the trial judge decided that she shouldn’t have permitted jury consideration of the value of billboards on the subject property, so she granted a new trial.  The owner appealed, and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the new trial order and reinstated the jury verdict.

So the bottom line of this one is that on the board’s original offer of $395,000, the owners were eventually awarded $3.1 million. They were also awarded interest on the difference between the commissioners’ award (which the board paid) and the ultimate award.


Lowball Watch — North Carolina

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

We are reliably informed of the following settlement of an eminent domain case in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. N.C. DOT v. Independence Tower Building.

DOT initially offered $256,000 (based on a $231,700 appraisal) for the taking of 0.4 acres out of a 5-acre parcel improved with a 12-story commercial  office building, which reduced parking by 62 spaces, affected  the subject property’s highest and best use, and changed access to it.

When the owners rejected its offer, DOT conducted another appraisal and upped the offer for the taking to $534,200. At this point the owners retained counsel (who pointed out that the rents used by DOT were project influenced).  That revelation  caused DOT to conduct a third appraisal which came to $4,889,425. After further negotiations, final settlement came to $5,228,014.19. In other words, the settlement came to 93 times DOT’s original offer.

The moral of this story is that even if you have reason to think that you are a sophisticated owner of a valuable property, it’s a good idea to retain and consult both lawyers and appraisers who really know what they are doing.

Lowball Watch — New Hampshire

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Seacoastonline. com brings the dispatch that the New Hampshire Supreme Court has affirmed without oral arguments a  Rockingham County jury award of $130,000 to the owners of a bicycle shop named “Papa Wheelies,” as against the condemnor/city’s contention that it should have been $18,500. Why the big spread? As far as we can figure out from the newspaper report, the lower figure was in line with evidence of value the State Board of Tax Appeals used to value the subject property for tax purposes. See Elizabeth Dinah, Supreme Court Upholds $130 K Award for Papa Wheelies,, October 9, 2013 — click here.

This is a problem on which the courts are split. Some allow evidence of tax valuation when the tax valuation figure was contended for by the owner, and its admission into evidence can be justified as an admission against interest. Others disagree because the purpose of valuation in these two types of cases is very different. It is proper (and indeed required in some states) that the fair market value awarded in eminent domain must be the highest price the owner could obtain in the market in a voluntary, arm’s length transaction. On the other hand, in valuation for tax purposes, the owner is free to contend for the lowest justifiable value — there is nothing wrong with that. After all, remember that value is a matter of opinion, not fact. Also, in tax valuation, if the valuers get it wrong, the property can be reassessed, whereas in eminent domain the judgment is final and there is no going back to redo it (unless there has been a prejudicial error of law) which is another story.

The taking in the Papa Wheelies case was of two temporary easements for new water and sewer lines, plus a permanent easement for two sewer lines.

Lowball Watch – Texas

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Wow! Them Texicans sure know how to do things big! Here is a dispatch from Harris County. State v. Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc.,  Case No. 997,839 (County Civil Court).

The case involved two properties: Macy’s (20.02 acres) and a local developer’s named NW-JCP, LP (45 acres).

Texas DOT took 11.82 acres from Macy’s (which took a substantial part of its parking), and offered $8,240,,2240. It took 1.395 acres from the developer’s 45-acre tract, for which it offered $972,208.

We don’t know yet what legal issues divided the parties, but judgment was entered as follows: $31,000,000 for Macy’s, and $32,000,000 for the developer, for a total of $63,000,000.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum for people, whether eminent domain professionals or not, for exchange of ideas and a discussion of eminent domain news and issues. It does not provide legal advice. Questions concerning actual cases should be directed to the readers' own legal, appraisal and real estate advisers.

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