Condemnation and Eminent Domain
Texas’s continued economic growth requires the expansion and improvement of infrastructure, facilities, and buildings. As the population in Texas grows, the need increases. In some cases, privately owned land is used to meet these needs.
The United States and Texas Constitutions provide that property owners must receive just, adequate compensation when private property is taken for public use. However, most seeking to take property through condemnation generally assign low values to properties they wish to take and completely ignore or attempt to diminish any damages to the remaining property. Further, complex procedural requirements and law often make it difficult for property owners to obtain what they are constitutionally owed on their own.
Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP Can Help
It can be alarming and stressful when the government, a private, for-profit pipeline company, or power line company attempts to take your private property. The best way to ensure that you are treated justly and your legal rights are protected is to retain an experienced Texas eminent domain and condemnation attorney.
At Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, we have a team of trial attorneys who exclusively handle eminent domain and condemnation cases. We have extensive experience fighting for the rights of property owners throughout Texas. We can help you challenge a taking while protecting your property and fighting for full compensation. Contact our Texas eminent domain and condemnation lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.
Why Choose Our Texas Eminent Domain Lawyers?
We never represent the parties that take your private property. Our law firm only represents property owners in eminent domain and condemnation cases. Therefore, we are never conflicted. We believe the legal rights of property owners deserve to be protected, and our lawyers are dedicated to doing so. While the government and certain companies may have the right to take private property for public use, it is not an automatic right. Property owners have the constitutional right to challenge condemnation and eminent domain cases. We are not afraid of going to court to defend private property and a landowner’s constitutional rights to compensation.
If you believe that an offer of compensation made to you is low or unfair, contact our Texas eminent domain and condemnation lawyers to discuss your options. We are deeply familiar with Texas eminent domain law and can explain your legal options.
When Can the Government Take Private Land for Public Use?
Under Texas law (Property Code Chapter 21), private land can be taken in a variety of situations. However, the land must be taken for a valid public use, and the taker must pay the owner just compensation for the property taken and all damages to the remaining property.
Public uses for which private property has been taken include the construction or expansion of:
- Highways, toll roads, and streets
- Government/public buildings, such as courts, government offices, libraries, and fire stations
- Schools and public parks
- Airports or transportation facilities, such as bus stations, light rail, railroads, and ports
- Water, oil, or gas pipelines
- Military bases
- Sewer, water, or storm drainage systems
- Dams or submerged lands
- Power stations, such as coal, natural gas, or nuclear
If you believe that your land is being taken for a purpose that does not meet the public use requirement for eminent domain and condemnation actions in Texas, us. Our civil litigation attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and options.
How Does Eminent Domain Work in Texas?
In most cases, property owners receive a letter from the taker or a contractor acting under the authority of the taker to request to survey and make an offer to purchase some or all of the private property. The letter typically explains the desire to purchase easement or fee title rights to the property for a specific project.
If the owner does not accept the offer, the owner may attempt to negotiate with the taker for additional compensation, or the owner may reject the offer. If an agreement is not reached or the property owner rejects the offer, then the taker may then file a condemnation lawsuit against the owner.
The court appoints three landowners who reside in the county in which the property is located to serve as Special Commissioners. The Special Commissioners can consider evidence presented by both parties related to the value of the private property, its uses, and damages that will occur due to the taking. The Special Commissioners issue an “award” based on the information they review. The award is the amount of compensation the commissioners believe to the property owner is owed by the taker.
If the taker or the property owner disagrees with the “award” made by the Special Commissioners, either party may object to the decision. An objection by either party sends the case to the trial court, where the case proceeds as a regular civil lawsuit would. Ultimately, the parties either reach a settlement or a trial is held to determine the amount of compensation owed to the property owner.
What is Inverse Condemnation?
Usually, in eminent domain and condemnation cases, the government is the plaintiff. But in the case of the inverse condemnation, the property owner initiates the lawsuit, reversing the typical order of the parties. Inverse condemnation occurs when the government takes private property without going through the proper process or paying the required compensation. Therefore, the landowner has the right to sue to obtain just condemnation.
Contact a Texas Condemnation Attorney for Help
Given the complexity of these matters, it is best to contact an experienced Texas eminent domain and condemnation lawyer as soon as you receive notice that a taking of your private property may occur. Eminent domain and condemnation cases involve strict deadlines and requirements for determining the true market value of your property. If you do not meet the deadlines or you do not follow the correct procedures, your property could be taken without payment of the compensation you are entitled to.
Our team of Texas eminent domain and condemnation lawyers can explain your legal rights and what to expect before, during, and after the taking. Throughout the entire process, our lawyers fight to protect your property rights and interests. The sooner you hire a lawyer, the sooner he or she can begin taking steps to ensure that your legal rights are protected.
The Texas civil litigation attorneys of Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP have extensive experience handling condemnation and eminent domain cases throughout Texas. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum have conducted numerous jury trials, special commissioners’ hearings, and expert and fact-witness depositions in eminent-domain cases. Here are some representative case examples:
Peregrine Pipeline Company, L.P. v. Eagle Ford Land Partners, L.P., No. E200700046, In the County Court at Law No. 2, Johnson County, Texas (2014):
Luke Ellis and Justin Hodge represented a landowner in a jury trial over the disputed value of a pipeline easement. The Plaintiff pipeline company had offered $80,000. After a week-long trial, the jury returned a verdict of $1.66 million in the landowner’s favor, the exact amount testified to by the property owner’s appraiser. Peregrine appealed and the jury verdict. The parties sreached a settlement while the case was pending on appeal that resulted in $616,943.47 net to the client.
High-Voltage Electric Powerline Trial
Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC v. Edward Clack, Cause No. C-330-E, In the County Court at Law No. 1 of Wichita County, Texas (2015):
Luke Ellis and Jacob Merkord obtained a favorable jury verdict as lead counsel in high-voltage electric power line easement condemnation case in Wichita County, Texas. Obtained final judgment approximately 8 times greater than the power line company’s initial offer. Oncor Electric Delivery Company, L.P. took a 33.65-acre easement for construction of a 345kV high-voltage power line. Oncor originally offered $54,731 as just compensation. The property owner, with Luke as lead counsel, argued for $393,165 in just compensation. The jury awarded $393,165 in total compensation, which after pre-judgment interest was included, resulted in a final judgment of $445,365, which includes $101,921.92 in attorneys’ fees, and $1589.06 in expenses. The major issues in the case were the tract’s highest and best use and the damages to the remaining land outside the power line easement. Oncor did not file an appeal. The recovery to the client, after attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses, was $304,405.79.
TxDOT Highway Expansion Trial
State of Texas vs. Skyway Holdings, LLC, a Texas Limited Liability Company, et al., Cause No. 76172, In the County Court at Law No. 3 of Bell County, Texas:
Justin Hodge, Kyle Baum, and Luke Ellis represented owners of an industrial property against a taking by the State of Texas. The taking was to widen IH-35, which impacted not only the part taken but also the landowners’ remaining property. The State’s taking caused safety issues related to forklifts, delivery trucks, semi-trucks, and retail customers. The State argued for just compensation of $74,875. The jury rejected the State’s argument and awarded just compensation of $508,548. This was the exact amount of just compensation testified to by the landowner’s expert appraiser, Josh Korman. The case is currently on appeal to the Third Court of Appeals.
Justin Hodge represented a landowner in a jury trial in Conroe, Texas against a taking by a local governmental authority. The taking involved issues related to the impact of a high-pressure gas pipeline on property and detention requirements by condemning authority, and Mr. Hodge’s responsibilities included giving the opening statement and cross-examining a key fact witness.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum regularly serve as lead counsel for several Fortune 100 companies in road-project cases against the State of Texas.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum have represented—and continue to represent—many clients in condemnation proceedings involving TxDOT’s widening of IH-35.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum represented many landowners in condemnation proceedings involving TxDOT’s SH-365 project in Hidalgo County, Texas (Rio Grande Valley).
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum have represented—and continue to represent—many landowners in condemnation proceedings involving TxDOT’s Grand Parkway Project in Harris and Liberty Counties.
Luke Ellis and Justin Hodge have represented landowners in condemnation proceedings involving TxDOT’s I-10 project in Jefferson and Harris Counties, Texas.
Luke Ellis and Justin Hodge have represented landowners against the State of Texas on TxDOT’s SH-130 project (segments 5 & 6).
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum represented landowners impacted by TxDOT’s widening of SH-121 in Denton County, Texas.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum have represented clients affected by a SH-45-SE tollway project.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum represented Dallas County property owners facing condemnation of their land for TxDOT’s widening of IH-635 and the expansion of US Highway 183.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum e represented multiple landowners in Johnson, Ellis, and Tarrant Counties in relation to a gas-pipeline project.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum represented central Texas landowners whose property was condemned for a water-pipeline project.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum have represented—and continue to represent—Texas landowners facing condemnation proceedings for electric-transmission lines.
In a jury trial in Houston, Justin Hodge represented a hedge fund against a taking of a country club in Clear Lake, Texas by a local governmental authority, resulting in a finding that the condemning authority’s action in deciding to take the property was arbitrary, capricious, and fraudulent.
Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge, Jacob Merkord, and Kyle Baum have represented—and continue to represent—Texas landowners facing condemnation proceedings by Kinder Morgan, Enterprise, ETC, Atmos, and others for private, for-profit pipeline companies.
Justin Hodge has also represented property owners against the City of Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority’s expansion of METRO rail lines in Harris County, Texas.