Lowball Watch – California

Don’t miss the new California Court of Appeal opinion in Tracy Joint Unified School District v. Pombo, No. C061239, filed October 29, 2010. This was a taking of 6.1 acres of vacant land out of a 231-acre tract, for a school site.

The District’s pretrial offer was $3,181,500 for the taken land with no severance damages to the remainder, while the owner’s demand was $7,995,000, including severance damages. The jury awarded $7,085,150 for the part taken, plus $900,000 in severance damages, for a total of $7,985,150. Or, practically speaking, a bull’s eye for the owner.

The controversy on appeal was over attorney’s fees. The trial court denied the owners their fees, opining that the condemnor’s offer was reasonable. The Court of Appeal disagreed after a lengthy analysis of the facts and the law, and reversed. It’s a good read.

If you want to understand the gist of the court’s reasoning, without wading through pages of judicial prose, we suggest you go to http://www.calattorneysfees.com/2010/10/eminent-domain-trial-courts-denial-of-litigation-expenses-to-winning-condemnees-reversed.html That is a blog on California attorney’s fees.