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Eminent Domain

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The law of eminent domain creates complex legal problems when authorities attempt to acquire real property or business. Before the government can take or damage property, you have a right to compensation.

Featured Experience

Represented a large, privately owned water utility company in Montana in an eleven day "right-to-take" condemnation trial, and subsequent six day "valuation" trial. Obtained judgment of $88.6 million plus attorney's fees - far above the condemnor's proof at trial of a $45 million value.

2016

Settled an eminent domain matter on behalf of a fast food restaurant corporation involving a metro Atlanta property. The location involved a corner interstate site in Clayton County. The Georgia Department of Transportation condemned the principal access to the site thus causing substantial damage to the value of the property. The GDOT paid $2.3 million pursuant to the consent judgment obtained to conclude the settlement. That sum represented a 200 percent increase over the original sum offered by the GDOT.

2011

Represented hotel developer in a year-long effort to counter the City of Knoxville's attempted takeover in conjunction with the construction of a new convention center. City abandoned the condemnation effort. Client's property, a $30 million hotel facility situated in the center of the city, is positioned to be the official convention center hotel.

Practice Overview

Overview

The law of eminent domain creates complex legal problems when authorities attempt to acquire real property or business. Before the government can take or damage property, you have a right to compensation. When we fight for clients, we leverage our experience and our expansive network of professionals within the areas of real estate appraisal, business valuation, engineering and general litigation to provide our clients with the very best advice, support, and representation. We couple a proactive legal strategy with a coordinated communication plan as we assemble a unique team of valuation experts with extensive litigation experience to maximize the recoverable value of the real estate and business assets. This ability is especially critical for companies with multiple locations who need a comprehensive strategy to manage and avoid the destruction of business value through condemnation.

We have developed a national practice representing investor-owned utilities, private enterprises, state and national real estate and investment entities, and individual property owners faced with takeover attempts by local governments and public utilities. Having represented clients in Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, the Group's diverse team of lawyers is experienced in defending all aspects of any kind of condemnation battle, including litigation strategy, maximizing business or property value, government negotiations, and strategic communications and media relations.

Our lawyers are uniquely experienced in the complex body of law governing municipal actions and public utility franchises, both of which are key in analyzing the rights of an investor-owned utility faced with a takeover attempt.

Representative Matters
  • Represented a large, privately owned water utility company in Montana in an eleven day "right-to-take" condemnation trial, and subsequent six day "valuation" trial. Obtained judgment of $88.6 million plus attorney's fees - far above the condemnor's proof at trial of a $45 million value.

  • Settled an eminent domain matter on behalf of a fast food restaurant corporation involving a metro Atlanta property. The location involved a corner interstate site in Clayton County. The Georgia Department of Transportation condemned the principal access to the site thus causing substantial damage to the value of the property. The GDOT paid $2.3 million pursuant to the consent judgment obtained to conclude the settlement. That sum represented a 200 percent increase over the original sum offered by the GDOT.

  • Represented hotel developer in a year-long effort to counter the City of Knoxville's attempted takeover in conjunction with the construction of a new convention center. City abandoned the condemnation effort. Client's property, a $30 million hotel facility situated in the center of the city, is positioned to be the official convention center hotel.

  • Obtained a $20.3 million verdict on behalf of a privately owned water utility company in a five-day jury trial, in which a municipality sought to take the water utility through eminent domain. The verdict was over 200 percent of the $9.5 million valuation advocated by the municipality at trial.

  • Settled condemnation for taking of right of way for access road constructed for new automobile assembly plant in west Georgia. Settlement was for $1.3 million dollars which is a 228 percent increase over the GDOT pay-in to court.

  • Successfully mediated an eminent domain matter for an internationally-owned convenience store chain in north Georgia. The case involved a partial loss of access that would cause the site to be unusable as a convenience store. The case settled for $1,075,000, which represented a 142 percent increase over GDOT's original pay-in to the court upon filing the declaration of taking.

  • Settled major condemnation for national trucking firm in Savannah. Settlement involved substantial plan revisions avoiding taking of office building and land locking of property. In addition funds of $1.5 million were paid for property taken and for consequential damages and mitigation expense.

  • Tried a business loss and real estate condemnation case in west Georgia. After a nine-day trial obtained a jury verdict resulting in a recovery of $1.9 million dollars which represented a 100 percent increase over sums paid into court by the GDOT. The case involved a taking of property from and damage to a warehouse distribution company.

  • Represented the state court appointed receiver of the Jefferson County, Alabama wastewater system, the largest municipal wastewater utility in Alabama with 144,000 customers.

  • Represented a real estate investment and development company in an eminent domain action filed by Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency in Nashville, Tennessee, to acquire 5.1 acres of property owned by the company for the construction of a new convention center. The jury awarded our client $30.4 million ($15.6 million more than the government offered).

  • Represented a Tennessee electric power board in two actions instituted by a national cable company and the state cable trade association to block their entry into the internet and cable television business. Both cases were summarily dismissed and affirmed on appeal.

  • Represented New Hampshire water utility in a condemnation action filed by the City of Nashua, New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission valued the 25,000 customer water system at $203 million (approximately $8000 per customer) and awarded an additional $40 million in severance damages. In March 2010, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the entire valuation award.

  • Represented a California water utility in a condemnation action filed by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. The utility's Felton water system fair market value was set at $13.4 million (approximately $10,300 per customer).

  • Represented publicly held water company in opposing City of Chattanooga's plan to initiate an expedited condemnation proceeding and pay only a fraction of the fair market value of the local subsidiary. The case involved the following: A Public Records Act lawsuit to compel production of the financial reports on which the City relied to substantiate the economic viability of the takeover attempt; a parallel suit contesting the City’s authority to condemn based on a prior perpetual franchise granted to the company by the State; and an injunction against the condemnation proceeding while the franchise case was pending. Community pressure, coupled with legal victory after victory for the water company, ultimately convinced the City to abandon its condemnation attempt.

  • Successfully thwarted two separate efforts by the City of Knoxville, Tennessee to condemn property owned by local private businesses.

  • Negotiated 743% business loss compensation increase over Georgia DOT initial offer for total taking of convenience food store with retail fuel sales tenant’s business.

  • Negotiated a settlement for a nationally traded REIT in an eminent domain case involving damage to a property under lease as an auto dealership; settlement was a 252% increase over the sum originally paid into court by the Georgia DOT.

  • Jury verdict awarding 429% real estate compensation increase over Georgia DOT initial offer for partial taking of vacant agricultural tract; verdict later affirmed by the Georgia Court of Appeals and finalized by the Supreme Court of Georgia upon the unanimous denial of a writ of certiorari.

  • Negotiated a settlement of a condemnation case with the Georgia DOT on behalf of a regional convenience store operator; settlement represented a 125% increase over sums the DOT had deposited with the court.

  • Secured a favorable jury verdict in a condemnation case in a northern metro Atlanta county in which the client, a petroleum realty investor, was awarded a sum 300 percent greater than that testified to by the experts for the GDOT.

  • Negotiated a settlement for owners of a vacant tract of land who had a portion of their property condemned by the GDOT; settlement was a 3,266 percent increase over what the GDOT paid into court.

  • Negotiated 340% real estate compensation increase over Georgia DOT initial offer for partial taking of interstate-oriented driving range/recreational facility.

  • Negotiated 153% real estate compensation increase over Georgia DOT initial offer for partial taking of national fast food chain restaurant.

  • Negotiated 181% combined real estate/business loss compensation increase over Georgia DOT initial offer for total taking of convenience food store with retail fuel sales tenant’s business.

  • Represented gas distribution company in threatened takeover attempt of gas distribution system in Morristown, Tennessee. Successfully negotiated with the City to abandon its condemnation effort and to award the company a new 20-year franchise. Also negotiated five new franchise agreements across the state on behalf of the distribution company.

  • Defended beer distributor in condemnation suit by City of Knoxville. After initial depositions, City dismissed suit and paid all attorneys' fees and expenses incurred in defending the suit. After suit was dismissed, Baker Donelson negotiated sale of the same property to the City, and the client received a $2 million premium.

In the News

I think the fact that [the eminent domain team] is so responsive always exceeds my expectations.

Senior Vice President at major public utility company operating in the US

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