City of Brentwood ordered to pay landowner after condemning land in Williamson County

Some people don’t know that our Nashville law firm represents landowners in middle Tennessee condemnation cases. Here is an example of a recent case:

The City of Brentwood condemned .76 acres on the hilltop of George Cawthon’s Brentwood property for the purposes of constructing a 2.5 million gallon concrete water tank. The land was vacant hilly property covered with trees. I had the pleasure of representing Mr. Cawthon and we adamantly disputed Brentwood’s calculation of damages.

Brentwood hired an appraiser to determine the value of the land taken and whether there were any incidental damages. That appraiser determined that the hilltop property in Brentwood was less valuable than surrounding flat properties and valued the portion of land taken at $36,000. He also decided that there were no incidental damages because there was no market research or data to support the allegation that a water tank caused aesthetic damages and decrease in value to the remainder of the property.

I hired an appraiser William “Bill” Parrish who testified that buyers in Williamson County pay a premium for hill side and hilltop land for large homes and therefore it is worth more than lower lying property. Mr. Parrish testified that the value of the land taken was $43,200. He also testified that the water tank caused aesthetic damages to the remainder causing $194,850 in incidental damages.

The case proceeded to a jury trial. Both experts conceded that there was no market research or data that proved incidental damages from water tanks. However, only our expert had a method of calculating damages to the remainder of the Brentwood property next to the water tank.

After several hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the landowner in the amount of $238,050, the exact amount of damages we sued for. $35,706 in interest was added to the verdict.

The City of Brentwood filed a motion for new trial which was denied by the trial court. Then the City appealed the verdict on the basis of the admissibility of Mr. Parrish’s expert testimony when there was no scientific data to support his opinions. The Court of Appeals, in an opinion authored by Judge Richard Dinkins, affirmed the trial court’s admission of Mr. Parrish’s testimony holding that the underlying data went to the weight of his testimony, not its admissibility.

The City, still not satisfied, sought permission to appeal the decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court which a review of the case October 12, 2010. Once remanded to the trial court, an additional $31,000 was added to the verdict for post judgment interest. The case is City of Brentwood v. Cawthon, 2010 WL 1931095 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010)(perm to app. Denied Oct. 12, 2010). You read the case here.

If you have land taken by the government, call me before accepting their offer. Representing landowners who’s property had been damaged is a lot like representing a seriously injured person. A Nashville personal injury attorney with experience in condemnation cases who knows the real value of the loss and can explain the damage to a jury is critical to the case.