Old Kentucky Justice

For once, it appears, the hunted became the hunter. Albert E. Leggett bought his property in 1990 for $325,000. In 2001, Sprint offered to buy it, and Leggett asked for $900,000. Sprint countered with a revised offer of $200,000. Leggett then hired and appraiser who opined to $750,000. Sprint now offered $275,000. But in the condemnation action, court-appointed commissioners awarded $600,000, over twice Sprint’s revised offer. At this point, Sprint abandoned the condemnation.

But in the meantime, when the owner filed his answer, he included a counterclaim for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The trial court granted summary judgment in Sprint’s favor. But the Kentucky Supreme court found the abuse of process claim proper.

According to the opinion, Sprint argued that it had filed its condemnation action under a Kentucky statute allowing telephone companies to condemn easements for telephone lines. But here Sprint had tried to condemn the owner’s entire property, demolish his building and put up one of its own. Nothing doing, said the court — a building is not a telephone line, so Sprint’s condemnation action was not well taken. The citation to the Kentucky Supreme Court opinion is Sprint Communications Co. v. Leggett, 307 S.W.2d 109 (Ky. 2010).

This case also qualifies for our Lowball Watch department, given Sprint’s attempt to acquire the subject property for $125,000 less than what the owner paid for it in 1990, eleven years earlier.