Making the Property Owner Whole

Not all cases involve verdicts of more than seven figures, but all condemnation cases are important to the property owner whose property has been taken by the government.

Four (4) recent jury verdicts Ms. Haywood and Mr. Newton obtained illustrate the concept of making a property owner whole, being creative, taking a stand and being persistent.

Jury Trial 1 (Wake County):

This case involved a small taking for a greenway easement from a homeowner in Holly Springs, NC.  The Town deposited $8,390 as its estimate of just compensation.  The Town’s two (2) appraisers contended that the greenway did not damage the property.  They did not value the house located on the property because they contended it was not affected.  The property owner’s appraiser testified to $135,000 in damages and a local realtor testified to damages of $150,000.

At first, the greenway seemed relatively innocuous, but the path was hidden in the woods and crossed the driveway leading to the house, severing part of the property and creating safety and liability concerns.  The jury returned a verdict of $145,000 to which interest and costs were added.

Jury Trial 2 (Johnston County):

This case involved a strip taking from a small neighborhood shopping center for the widening of the busy NC 42 in Clayton, NC.  The most damaging aspect of the taking was the installation of a median, which prevented left turns in and out of the shopping center.  The judge ruled that no damages could be attributed to the median because the median was installed under the state’s police power for the safety of the travelling public.

The taking did, however, cause the property to be nonconforming with the Town’s thoroughfare buffer requirement and placed the parking only five (5) feet from the new right of way.  We argued even though the DOT was not technically using the new right of way, the property owner needed to be paid for rights acquired.  The DOT deposited $41,100.  The property owner’s trial testimony was $320,000 and the DOT’s two (2) appraisers testified to $48,550.  The verdict was $210,270.80 to which interests and costs were added.

Jury Trial 3 (Carteret County):

This case involved a total taking for a bridge approach in Beaufort, NC.  The property was improved with an airplane hangar built in 1954.  The property was located across from a marina and adjacent to the local airport.  It had been successfully rented for a number of years, most recently to boat builders.  The DOT deposited $161,610.

At trial the DOT’s appraiser testified to $180,550.  The only witness for the property owner was the property owner herself who testified that to replace the rent she was losing she would have to spend $350,000 for a replacement property.  The jury returned a verdict of $345,000 to which interest and costs were added.

Jury Trial 4 (Forsyth County):

This case involved the total taking of an approximately one (1) acre tract plus two (2) buildings operated as a salvage merchandise business.  The DOT had first contacted the property owner ten (10) years before the taking to tell him his property would be taken, but kept delaying the project.  The DOT appraiser testified that the value of the property taken was $491,800.  The property owner’s appraisal witness testified that the property owner was entitled to recover $796,000.  In addition, the DOT agreed to pay the property owner an additional $10,219.42 for the trees it cut prior to the taking.

Both appraisers utilized the cost approach, but the property owner appraiser’s opinion was based on sales comparables that were closer to the subject property, and the depreciated value of the building was based on an actual building contractor’s estimate, instead of just relying on the Marshall & Swift estimator service as the DOT appraiser did.  The jury returned a verdict of $734,000 to which interest and costs were added.  The DOT’s highest offer prior to trial was $615,000 pursuant to an offer of judgment.

Highest & Best Use / Access Taken / No Land: New Hanover County

Highest & Best Use - Access Taken/No Land

In this 2007 condemnation action, the NCDOT did not take any land from the property owner.  Instead, the taking consisted of four (4) contract access points along a Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway in Wilmington, North Carolina.  The NCDOT’s initial deposit of $2,375,200 was subsequently increased by $2,298,947 for total deposit of $4,674,147.  Two weeks prior to trial, the NCDOT attempted to “untake” the taking, which was denied by the judge.  Working with her North Carolina eminent domain co-counsel, Ms. Haywood obtained a jury verdict of $16,000,000 plus $86,304 for breach of contract. Expert witness fees and interest totaled $2,266,683.15 for a total payment of $18,352,987.15.

Access & Business Damages: Durham County

Access & Business Damages

This condemnation by the NCDOT involved the closing and/or change in grade to access points for this Durham convenience store.  After the taking the C-Store and gas pumps remained but the impact to the site was significant. NCDOT deposited $14,959.  Ms. Haywood together with her co-counsel obtained a jury verdict of $995,000. The NCDOT appealed and the case settled at the Court of Appeals level for $950,000.

Acquisition for Airport Expansion: Moore County

Acquisition for Airport Expansion

In 2006, the Moore County Airport Authority (MCAA) acquired land from a family limited partnership in Moore County, North Carolina for a public roadway right-of-way to relocate a portion of NC Highway 22 and State Road 1843. Emmett Boney Haywood represented the family limited partnership in the North Carolina condemnation action brought by MCAA. The MCAA’s initial deposit was $455,050.00 for 82.5 acres.  Mrs. Haywood negotiated a settlement for $705,000.00, $249,950.00 more than the initial deposit, plus the re-conveyance of 10.7 acres, which MCAA had claimed as an uneconomic remnant.

Business Whole Taking: Wake County NC

businesswholetaking_wake

In 2006, Wake County condemned the entire property owned by Defendant for a public off-street parking facility.  The County’s highest offer was $415,000 for the property.  With the assistance of Raleigh Eminent Domain Law Firm Emmett Boney Haywood, a jury verdict was issued in the amount of $625,000 plus interest and costs.

Inverse Condemnation: Wake County NC

inverse_condemnation_wake_county

This inverse condemnation case involved the siltation of a pond located in eastern Wake County. The NCDOT had taken a portion of the tract for the construction of the new I-540 Eastern Wake Expressway. Ineffective storm drainage measures caused the siltation of the pond. NCDOT and the contractor settled the inverse claim for a total of $150,000.

Partial Taking with Severance Damages: Wake County

Partial Taking with Severance Damages

This case involved a partial taking for the Evans Road Widening Project in Cary, North Carolina. The homeowner’s property was located on Evans Road, a two-lane road.  The Town of Cary took the owner’s front yard to construct a new four-lane, main roadway. The municipality’s initial offer for this taking was $19,005.00.  Working with co-counsel, we negotiated an additional $53,495.00 settlement with severance damages resulting in a total settlement of $72,500.00.

Negotiated Settlement for Whole Taking & Relocation Benefits: Wake County

Negotiated Settlement for Whole Taking & Relocation Benefits

The NCDOT sought to acquire a .56 acre portion of a 1.13 acre residential tract for right of way purposes, with an initial offer of $126,000, which included the taking of the property’s septic system.  There were no remaining suitable soils to support a traditional septic system.  As a result the North Carolina property owners would have been required to install an expensive nontraditional septic system on the remaining .57 acre tract. A negotiated settlement was reached by which the NCDOT agreed to purchase the entire property for $284,800 in addition to paying moving and other relocation benefits.

Utility Acquisition: Wake County

Utility Acquisition

In 2008, Carolina Power & Light Company (doing business as Progress Energy Carolinas, Inc.) filed a condemnation action against a real estate development company to install an electrical substation on the company’s property near the downtown Raleigh area. The initial deposit was in the amount of $3,553,085. Together with co-counsel, Ms. Haywood negotiated an out-of-court settlement in the amount of $4,350,000. In some cases, the power of eminent domain extends to private utility takings in North Carolina.

Road Widening Taking: Lee County

Road Widening Taking

NCDOT took a portion of this convenience store property for a road widening project in Lee County, North Carolina.  The government’s initial offer for the property taken by eminent domain was $3,120.00.  During pre-trial hearings, the court  ruled that the NCDOT could not establish the existence of some of its claimed existing right-of-way. The case proceeded through trial with the jury returning a verdict of $126,081.47 plus interest and costs.