Chappell v. NCDOT
|Case Link||View Now|
|Opinion Filed||May 01, 2020|
|Attorney for the Case||Matthew Bryant|
|Amicus Brief Writers||Shiloh Daum Joan Davis|
|Court||NC Supreme Court|
NCAJ filed an amicus brief in the NC Supreme Court urging the justices to affirm a Cumberland County jury’s verdict and post-trial rulings that compensated landowners for by takings by NCDOT pursuant to the “Map Act”. The Map Act prohibited the improvement, subdivision, and development of land located within certain protected corridors that were set aside for future NCDOT road projects. DOT did not acquire their land through condemnation, however, which left owners trapped for decades and unable to sell or fully benefit from their assets as their property values plummeted. The Court previously ruled in Kirby v. DOT that the Map Act’s restrictions constituted a taking.
The Chappells filed an inverse condemnation action against the DOT for the taking of their property without the constitutional remedy of just compensation. NCAJ argued in support of the trial court ruling that DOT was required to pursue condemnation as a counterclaim, and that it was not entitled to the normal quick-take rights DOT typically enjoys. NCAJ also opposed DOT attempts to obtain quick-take rights and possession of the property on the eve of trial when it had never paid any damages for its initial takings.
The amicus brief argued that the trial court correctly applied the existing legal standard from Kirby and statutes stating damages are based upon the fair market value of the property before the taking minus the fair market value of the remaining property after the taking. NCAJ agreed with the trial judge’s decision to exclude certain testimony and evidence by DOT’s purported expert appraisers that was not sufficiently reliable, largely because their opinions did not follow existing case law. By contrast, DOT seeks to reverse the trial verdict and present evidence from appraisers based upon speculation and alleged events that occurred long after the taking.
Finally, NCAJ supported the landowner and trial judge’s position that constitutional right to just compensation permits an owner to recover interest from the date of taking based upon a prudent investor standard, and not just a statutory interest rate. We also agreed that ad valorem taxes paid by an owner whose property was taken was entitled to additional damages as compensation.