MINNEAPOLIS EMINENT DOMAIN ATTORNEY DEFENDING A PRIOR SUCCESSFUL JURY VERDICT IN THE COURT OF APPEALS
As was noted in a prior blog post, Morphew Law Office obtained a successful jury trial verdict in an eminent domain trial on behalf of its client as a result of the forced taking of her property by Hennepin County.
Jury Trial Verdict
Due to Hennepin County’s refusal to engage in good faith settlement negotiations, the litigation over the property owners’ damages lasted more than three years. After three years of litigation, the property owners’ claim of damages finally went to a jury trial in November 2018. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict that was 70% higher than the amount initially offered by Hennepin County at the beginning of the case. As a result of this significant verdict, Hennepin County became responsible for reimbursing the property owner for her reasonable litigation expenses and attorney’s fees.
As part of that ongoing litigation, Hennepin County argued on four different occasions that the property owner should not be allowed to introduce certain evidence in support of her claim of damages caused by the taking of her property. Hennepin County took the position that the property owner should be precluded from submitting any evidence related to the noise, dust, vibration and other interferences that happened while construction occurred on her property.
Based upon well-established legal precedent, on all four occasions the district court concluded the property owner was allowed to submit all relevant evidence in support of her claim of damages. This included evidence of the disruptions she suffered as a result of the construction that occurred on her property during the project.
Court of Appeals Litigation
Despite losing on this issue four times at the district court, Hennepin County elected to appeal the jury trial verdict to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The only conclusion one can come to as to why Hennepin County elected to appeal the jury trial verdict is that they do not fully understand the past precedent and how damages are to be measured in partial acquisition cases like this one.
Throughout this ongoing litigation, the County has consistently argued that the past precedent stands for the proposition that damages in a partial acquisition case must be determined by the difference in value of the subject property immediately before the taking and immediately after the taking. However, that is a misreading of the Supreme Court’s conclusion in that case and seems to be the source of confusion for Hennepin County on this issue.
In the case State v. Strom, 493 N.W.2d 554, 559 (Minn. 1992), the Supreme Court cited several earlier Minnesota cases when it noted that the “before and after” rule stands for the proposition that “the measure of damages is the difference between the fair market value of the entire piece of property immediately before the taking and the fair market value of the remainder of the property after the taking.” Unlike the position taken by many governmental entities, the Strom case does not require the “after damages” to be fixed immediately on the date of taking. Instead, Strom and its progeny of cases all allow property owners to submit evidence of construction-related interference damages that occurred after the date of taking, not as a separate item of damages “’but as an element which affects the market value of the remaining area.’” Id. at 560. Morphew Law Office remains confident that the Court of Appeals will follow the past precedent established in the Strom case and affirm the jury trial verdict.
Property owners faced with the forced taking of their property need an attorney experienced in this type of litigation. Many attorneys that do not work regularly in the area of eminent domain law do not have this experience and may be afraid to take these cases to trial or to the appellate courts. This may result in their clients receiving less than what they are entitled to receive for the forced taking of their property. An experienced eminent domain lawyer can make sure you receive just compensation for the forced taking of your property and make sure your interests are protected. If your property is being forcibly taken by the government for a public project, contact real estate attorney Jon Morphew at Morphew Law today.