Assistant Ohio AG appeals eminent domain jury verdict

Legal News Line Sep. 2, 2008, 5:53pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) -- An assistant Ohio attorney general argued recently that the standard of measurement for damages in an eminent domain case is the value of the land taken by the government, not sales lost due to the taking. Assistant Attorney General Michael Stokes made his arguments before the 3rd District Court of Appeals after a jury awarded plaintiff Kewpee Hamburgers, located in Lima, $300,000 for land the state took to widen part of the street upon which the restaurant sits. The case is focused on an 8-foot strip of land previously used for ten parking spots at the popular eatery. At trial, the plaintiff successfully argued that losing those parking spots directly impacted the volume of customers who could frequent the restaurant at any given time. Bruce Ingram, a Columbus lawyer representing Kewpee, said the jury correctly based their verdict on gross sales lost due to the taking. There are several ways to determine the value of real estate, said Ingram. "One is an income approach to valuation which permits an appraiser to consider the gross sales of the lost property," he said. The Ohio AG's office, however, said that standard is wrong. "We took the land so the business owner is entitled to renumeration for that but not the loss of business," said Jim Gravelle, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Nancy Hardin Rogers. "We feel the jury should have been instructed only on the loss of property but not on the loss of business, as the jury found." He added that when Kewpee's owner was asked at trial by defense counsel to estimate how much business the eatery lost due to the taking of the parking spots, he made a "guesstimate" of $300,000. That figure turned out to be the exact amount of the jury's verdict, as well. Ingram confirmed there were settlement negotiations with the AG's office but, he said, "$13,500 was all that was offered and not a penny more." That amount equals the approximate value of the land taken by the state, as determine by state appraisers. Ingram's statement directly contradicts a story in a Lima newspaper which said the state had offered close to $100,000. "The state never offered that," Ingram said.

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