Condemees Not Always Entitled to Fair Market Value?
Posted in Court Decisions

Another recent interesting court decision was somewhat lost in all the excitement last week over (1) the County of Los Angeles v. Glendora Redevelopment Project case striking down Glendora's redevelopment plan for inadequate blight findings and (2) the US Supreme Court decision in the Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection case rejecting a "judicial takings" claim

That recent decision was by the California Court of Appeal in City of San Jose v. Union Pacific Railroad, which came down a month ago, but received little attention as an unpublished decision on a narrow valuation issue.   But on June 11, the Court decided to publish its opinion, making it a whole lot more relevant to us eminent domain attorneys. 

In Union Pacific Railroad, the city sought to condemn an easement across a strip of land owned by the railroad company in order to widen an existing street.  The court held that the railroad was entitled to only nominal compensation for the portion of the property actually used for the rail line, explaining that a special rule applies in such circumstances pursuant to a 1925 California Supreme Court decision, City of Oakland v. Schenck (1925) 197 Cal. 456.

With some thoughtful analysis, it seems pretty clear that the Court got the decision right.  Under the facts as presented in the case, the easement did not diminish the value of the fee given its highest and best use as a rail line, meaning nominal value makes perfect sense -- and constitutes fair market value.  

But the Court apparently found the case to be more novel, concluding that it was bound to follow Schenck, but that the end result was a decision that did not afford the owner fair market value for the property taken.   In my opinion, the Court's analysis is wrong, even though its decision was right. 

For more details about the case, feel free to read my E-Alert, Court of Appeal Holds that a Condemnee is Not Always Entitled to Fair Market Value – But is That Really What the Court Means?


  • Rick E. Rayl

    Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues.  His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes.  His public ...

California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain. We cover all aspects of eminent domain, including condemnation, inverse condemnation and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts and report on all major eminent domain conferences and seminars in the Western United States.

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