NEW CASE UPDATE
County of Glenn v. Foley
Court of Appeal Reaffirms Right of Parties in Eminent Domain Actions to Introduce Expert Testimony on How “Comparable” Sales Data Should Be Adjusted In Light of Differences in Property Improvements.
In the recent County of Glenn v. Foley decision, 2012 Cal.App. LEXIS 1302, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, held that while expert opinion on the value of comparable properties was inadmissible in eminent domain motions, expert testimony was admissible to opine on how differences in property improvements on comparable properties could affect the valuation of the comparable properties.
In Foley, the County desired to take certain land as part of its effort to expand its landfill. The property owner’s expert opined that even though the property was currently used as grazing land, the highest and best use of the property was as orchard land. The property owner’s expert then opined that when sales of comparable orchard land were reviewed and adjustments were applied to these comparable sales to take into account differences in property improvements, such as existing crops, soil conditions, etc., the subject property was worth $1.7 million. The County did not agree with the property owner’s expert’s analysis and argued that the highest and best use of the property was as its existing use, grazing land, and that the property was only worth $637,000.
The County brought a motion in limine to exclude the valuation opinion of the property owner’s expert on the grounds that the property owner’s valuation method, which made adjustments to the purchase price of comparable properties, included inadmissible opinions regarding the value of comparable properties, when only objective evidence of comparable sales, such as actual sales prices was admissible under California Evidence Code section 822 in an eminent domain action. The trial Court granted the County’s motion and an appeal followed. Reversing the trial court decision, the Court of Appeal held that while expert testimony on the value of comparable properties was not admissible, expert testimony regarding an appraiser’s adjustments to comparable sales prices (to reduce or increase valuations based on improvements on the comparable property) was acceptable if the expert testimony was properly supported.
The Foley decision will likely be used by defendants in eminent domain actions to defeat public entity attempts to exclude the testimony of property owner valuation experts, but the case may also prove useful for public entities defending the admittance of their experts’ testimony under some circumstances.
Should you have any questions about this decision or how Bergman Dacey Goldsmith can help your entity in eminent domain proceedings, or any other legal matter, please contact Brian J. Bergman at (310) 470-6110 or at [email protected].