further testified to what he envisioned as the potential development of his property had it not been condemned. He also was permitted to testify to comparable sales of property. After considering all of these factors, and given his knowledge of his property's worth as its owner, he concluded that the value of the portion of his property taken on the date of condemnation, June 12, 1975, was $189,515.
The Morningstars' real estate appraiser testified that in his opinion the highest and best use of the subject property was subdivision for country home living. He also testified as to comparable sales which he used in arriving at his valuation of the condemned property at the time of condemnation, and as unaffected by the impending Government project. He gave his opinion as to value at $125,000.
The law is well settled that the United States does not pay the amount by which the land condemned for a project might be enhanced in value by the very project for which the land is needed. UNITED STATES v. REYNOLDS, 397 U.S. 14, 25 L. Ed. 2d 12, 90 S. Ct. 803 (1970). The owners of the land are entitled to the fair market value of the property at the time of the taking as unaffected thereby. UNITED STATES v. MILLER, 317 U.S. 369, 373-374, 87 L. Ed. 336, 63 S. Ct. 276 (1943).
It is within the sound discretion of the Court to admit the comparable sales testified to by the various witnesses and to allow the jury to determine whether the described properties were in fact comparable to the condemned tract, and if found comparable, to determine what weight should be given thereto. UNITED STATES v. 84.4 ACRES OF LAND, ETC., 348 F.2d 117, 119 (3d Cir. 1965). Although the fair market value arrived at by the jury was the same as that testified to by the Government's appraiser, the verdict was within the range of the expert testimony as to fair market value, and the verdict cannot be said to be against the weight of the evidence simply because it ranges closer to the Government's appraisal than to the landowner's appraisals. UNITED STATES v. 633.07 ACRES OF LAND, ETC., 362 F. Supp. 451 (M.D.Pa. 1973).
It was also for the jury to hear the testimony as to highest and best use, decide for itself which was more credible, and figure that into its valuation. As stated in UNITED STATES v. MILLER, 317 U.S. 369, 375, 87 L. Ed. 336, 343, 63 S. Ct. 276, (1943), "[The] market value of the property is to be fixed with due consideration of all its available uses . . . " The jury apparently found the testimony of the Government witness more credible after hearing both sides testify as to what they felt to be comparable sales and what would be the property's highest and best use. In this we can find no error, for in determining market value of condemned property, evidence as to reasonable probabilities of its use is admissable and may be considered, but the weight to be given such evidence is a question for the trier of fact. UNITED STATES v. 100 ACRES OF LAND, ETC., 468 F.2d 1261 (9th Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 869, 94 S. Ct. 37, 38 L. Ed. 2d 84.
Related to the Condemnees' argument that the verdict does not reflect compensation for the highest and best use of the condemned property is their averment that we erred in refusing to allow into evidence a plot plan which had been prepared and recorded prior to the date of condemnation. Considering all of the factors involving the plot plan it was, and still is, our considered opinion that the plot plan was so speculative in nature that the jury would have been misled had it been admitted into evidence. UNITED STATES v. 633.07 ACRES OF LAND, ETC., 362 F. Supp. 451 (M.D.Pa. 1973). Although it is true that the plot plan was prepared and recorded prior to the condemnation which occurred on June 12, 1975, the plan was filed on May 14, 1975 less than a month prior to condemnation and nearly eight years after the initial announcement of the Government project in 1967. The plot plan had been prepared by interpolation and had not been surveyed. It was exclusively within the property designated for taking and there had been no out sales at the time of the condemnation. Although there admittedly was good frontage on a legislative road there were no roads or other amenities such as water supply or sewage disposal facilities constructed on the property in anticipation of or in connection with the supposed subdivision plan.
The Condemnees further aver that the Court erred in refusing to permit one of the Condemnees, Daniel C. Morningstar, to testify as to separate values of improvements which were erected on the condemned property. The witness was permitted to fully describe these improvements and it was for the jury to consider the value of the land with improvements as described in the testimony. It would have been improper to value the land and the buildings and improvements as separate and independent entities distinct from each other, and then to total the unit values together to arrive at a final opinion of value. KINTER v. UNITED STATES, 156 F.2d 5 (3d Cir. 1946).
The Government's expert real estate appraisal witness testified that in making his appraisal of the condemned property he had relied on a report from a tree valuation expert with respect to figuring the value of timber and a Christmas tree nursery on the condemned property. The Condemnees' claim that the Court erred in permitting the real estate appraisal expert to testify with respect to a report he had received from another expert without a copy of the other's report having been furnished to the Condemnees ten days prior to trial. We know of no rule requiring such disclosure, and any prejudice which might have arisen was certainly eliminated by the fact that the tree expert took the stand as a witness at the trial and was subjected to cross examination.
The verdict was neither contrary to the law nor contrary to the evidence and the request for a new trial will be denied.
R. DIXON HERMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: March 16th, 1978
AND NOW, this 16th day of March, 1978, in accordance with the memorandum this day filed, IT IS ORDERED that the Condemnees' request for a new trial is denied.
R. DIXON HERMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.