Lowball Watch — Louisiana

A worthy entry into our “Lowball Watch” department comes from Louisiana. It’s State DOT v. Monteleone, La. Ct. of Appeal (5th Cir.), No. 11-CA-1013, filed November 13, 2012. This was a taking of a 153-acre tract of land for highway improvement. For purposes of valuation it was subdivided by the appraisers and the court into three parcels. As a result the opinion is long and fact-intensive, so if you want to understand the controversy fully, you should read it in its entirety. The date of value was 1987.

The DOT’s deposit was only $46,558, whereas after two trials (see 967 So.2d 798 for the first appellate opinion which reversed the first award of an additional $45,114 with no severance damages, because of jury misconduct). The final award for the taking, after the second trial, came to $214,534.14. plus $1,416,466.40 in severance damages, plus $1,584,442.54 in accrued interest (and counting), plus $173,030 in costs, plus $900,000 in attorneys fees for the trial. The case was remanded for calculation of attorneys fees for the appeal, to be added to the attorneys fees for the trial.

The controversy centered on DOT’s contention that the highest and best use was only the land being left in a natural state as “recreational,” whereas the owners contende that a part of it was developable as industrisl. Note also that this condemnation action was filed — are you ready? — in 1987, which accounts for the high interest figure. No explanation for this long delay (other than the first trial and first appeal which still makes this delay pretty long).

This post was edited on November 26, 2012