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That happened to a beachfront property owner in Virginia Beach a couple of years ago: After a jury awarded him 38 times the amount he had been offered, the city decided it really owned the property all along.
Much the same thing happened to Wanda Beavers, who lost part of her land a few years ago to the widening of German School Road in Richmond. The state offered her less than $7,000. She asked for $30,000. The jury gave her $52,000 — and the state spent $61,000 in attorneys’ fees on top of that.
Alan Ackerman, a Michigan lawyer, tells the Pilot “a lot of the government agencies … across the country” are doing what VDOT has done — “lowering their offers to punish people for fighting them.”
Gideon Kanner agrees — he tells me the practice is “very, very common.” In California, where Kanner fought many such cases, it even goes by a special term: sandbagging. Kanner says it sends a powerful signal to the owner that if he doesn’t settle, he runs the risk of having to cough up cash he hasn’t got. Many owners choose to settle.
The battle to end eminent domain abuse won’t end until this gets fixed.
This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch