Institue for Justice Minnesota is hosting a moot court for Dakota County v. George W. Cameron IV involving MN minimum compensation statute

On Monday, November 5th, 2012 at 3pm the Institute for Justice-Minnesota will be  hosting a moot court for Dakota County v. George W. Cameron IV at our central office located in Minneapolis.  All MEDI (Minnesota Eminent Domain Institute) members are welcome to participate, and a conference line will be established for lawyers outside the Twin Cities.

Dakota County v. George W. Cameron IV is case involving MN Minn. Stat. 117.187, which was enacted in 2006 and states:

When an owner must relocate, the amount of damages payable, at a minimum, must be  sufficient for an owner to purchase a comparable property in the community and not less than the condemning authority’s payment or deposit under section 117.042, to the extent that the damages will not be duplicated in the compensation otherwise awarded to the owner of the  property.  For the purposes of this section, “owner” is defined as the person or entity that holds fee title to the property.

This is a case of first impression currently under review at the MN Supreme Court.  Briefs and reply briefs have been submitted and oral arguments are scheduled for November 8th, 2012 (briefs are below).

As attorney’s representing the property owner, we argue that the trial court and court of appeals have failed to interpret the plain language of the Minimum Compensation Statute much less liberally construe it in the condemnee’s favor or consistent with the purpose of the statute.  Moreover, the resulting opinions are inconsistent with the purpose of the statute to relocate displaced business owners.

Additionally, we find that equivalency is the standard for evaluating the comparable attribute to select comparable properties under the Minimum Compensation Statute.  The trial court found that the comparable property can be a lesser property that the displaced property owner cannot purchase.  The court of appeals agreed as long as the properties are similar (there is no caselaw interpreting this statute).

We also assert that under the Minimum Compensation Statute a comparable property must be a specific and existing property that is available on the date of taking in order that the displaced person can actually purchase the property.  The trial court found that the comparable property under the statute can be a hypothetical property that the displaced person cannot purchase.  The court of appeals agreed.

We also argue with the court’s assertion that the comparable property identified by the condemnor was within the community.    The property identified by the condemnor as comparable was located seven (7) miles from the subject property, significantly outside the three-mile trade area applicable for the business.  Although differing in their definitions of in the community, both the trial court and the court of appeals agreed that the comparable property identified by the condemnor was within the community.

Lastly, we avow that new construction is properly considered as a comparable property under the Minimum Compensation Statute.  At the time of taking, the condemnor provided compensation based upon a comparable property that was not available.  After hiring a broker, the property owner was unable to find an improved property that would allow him to move his business and continue in the way it was operated at the subject property prior to the taking.  Consequently, the property owner purchased vacant land and constructed a new building.  In finding that the condemnor’s identified property as comparable, neither the trial court nor the court of appeals reached this issue.

Supreme Court Briefs:

Appellant Brief, Respondent BriefReply Brief

Contact us for information regarding the upcoming moot court.

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