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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.