Why Litigation in Commercial Condemnation Cases is a Good Thing

Our attorneys frequently get calls from concerned commercial property owners who are being threatened by NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) right-of-way agents that if a settlement is not reached within a short period of time, that litigation will ensue. But is this a bad thing?

In fact, we believe that litigation in most commercial condemnation cases is a good thing for the client. Prior to litigation, DOT condemnation cases are handled by right-of-way agents that are typically outsourced third-party contractors working on behalf of the department. And most of those agents have limited negotiation authority to resolve cases beyond a very narrow percent range.

Instead, once a case is selected for litigation, it is sent to the North Carolina Attorney General’s office for filing. There, an assistant attorney general will manage the legal aspects of the case, while a DOT negotiator (an actual DOT employee with far greater authority and decision-making ability) is managing the negotiations of money, any modifications to the plans and take areas, or other issues in the case. So, in fact, by allowing the file to move into litigation, a property owner and their lawyer will then be negotiating and dealing directly with the higher-level state employees who have the ability to resolve the case for proper value and terms, or go all the way to the Secretary of Transportation or the Transportation Board if necessary for approval. 

If that fails, then a jury trial is always the final determination of value.

As a result, it is our opinion that in the majority of commercial condemnation cases, a property owner who resolves their case prior to litigation is quite possibly settling for something less than fair market damages. Instead, our experiences show that cases that move into litigation end up with results significantly higher than those that do not. 

A property owner only gets one opportunity for settlement of jury verdict. If an owner settles their case early, only to determine later on that they misunderstood the true impact of the project to the property or accepted in inadequate sum to compensate for those damages, they are unable to go back later on for further compensation.

As experienced commercial condemnation attorneys, it is our belief that every property-taking case should be thoroughly evaluated before reaching any settlement. Whether it is taking a deeper look at the specific language of the easements or takings, analyzing in great depth the plan sheets, cross sectionals, hydraulics and utility plans, or consulting with expert real estate brokers appraisers, land planners or engineers, every valuable commercial condemnation case should be fully evaluated before any settlement negotiations are conducted.

If You’re Facing Condemnation of Your Property, Contact Our Eminent Domain Lawyers for Help.

Protecting property owners across the state of North Carolina is of the utmost importance to us. If you are facing land condemnation, contact Henson Fuerst to speak with one of our experienced eminent domain and land condemnation lawyers today by calling 866-821-3146 or by submitting a web form online.