Frequently Asked Questions

How long after the pre-condemnation offer is made can an eminent domain lawsuit be filed?

Under Indiana law, acquiring agencies must wait a minimum of 30 days after an offer to purchase has been made to the landowner before an eminent domain lawsuit can be filed. On the 31st day after the offer to purchase has been made, if the landowner has not accepted the offer, the agency can proceed with a lawsuit.

Is it better to try to negotiate with the landowner after the offer period has expired to avoid condemnation?

Every case has a unique set of facts, so the right approach will be different based on the circumstances of each case. However, since most public improvement projects occur under tight budgets and pressing deadlines, if a landowner does not accept the pre-condemnation offer, it may be most advantageous for the agency to file an eminent domain lawsuit as soon as possible after the offer period has expired.

Are there any guidelines or requirements that govern administrative or condemnation settlements?

Yes. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as other agencies, have special guidelines for administrative or condemnation settlements. These guidelines must be carefully followed in support of an administrative or condemnation settlement. YLSLG’s attorneys are familiar with these guidelines and have extensive experience preparing settlement justification documents.

What happens if the landowner contests the acquiring agency’s acquisition?

If a landowner contests the acquiring agency’s acquisition in court, the landowner’s objections must be addressed, often times through a hearing on those objections. Acquiring agencies that have the power of eminent domain are granted broad discretion in exercising this right. But, there are exceptions. When a landowner contests the acquisition of real estate, the acquiring agency needs experienced eminent domain attorneys to defend against landowner’s objections.

Can the court require that the acquiring agency make changes to its acquisition if the landowner objects?

Generally, no. The court can decide whether the agency has the right to exercise the power of eminent domain under the law. If so, the court will oversee the process for determining the amount of just compensation to be paid to the landowner. This process can include options up to and including overseeing a jury trial on the number of damages.

When can the acquiring agency access the real estate being acquired in order to begin its project?

If the landowner accepts the agency’s offer, the acquisition is completed without the need for court involvement. The agency can access the real estate as soon as the transaction is completed or sooner if the parties agree. If the landowner does not accept the offer, an eminent domain lawsuit will need to be filed. The court will appoint three court-appointed appraisers to prepare a report of appraisers determining the amount of just compensation to the landowner. Once the agency deposits the court-appointed appraisers’ award with the clerk of the court, it will have access to or possession of the subject real estate in order to begin the project.

How long does it typically take to obtain possession of the real estate being acquired through the eminent domain lawsuit?

Many variables can arise in any given case that affects the timeframe for the acquisition of the real estate interests at issue in a case. However, YLSLG’s team of attorneys understand that agencies spend significant resources to plan public improvement projects and that delays can threaten an entire project. Our experienced and knowledgeable YLSLG attorneys push eminent domain cases toward the clients’ goals of acquiring real estate as soon as possible.

Does the acquiring agency own the real estate being acquired once it has access or possession?

In an eminent domain proceeding, access or possession of real estate is different than ownership of real estate. Agencies usually gain access and possession of the real estate in an eminent domain case when the amount of the court-appointed appraisers’ award is deposited with the clerk of the court. But, that is not the end of the case. If the landowner or agency disagrees with the amount of just compensation that has been determined by the court-appointed appraisers, the case may need to proceed to trial on damages. Only when the final amount of just compensation is determined, either through settlement negotiations, mediation or trial, will the agency own the real estate acquired.

Not all agencies seek ownership of the subject real estate in fee simple. Many agencies acquire only an easement, either temporary or permanent. In such cases, ownership of the real estate never changes because the landowner remains the owner.

Is the eminent domain lawsuit concluded once the amount of the court-appointed appraisers’ award is deposited?

No. After the acquiring agency deposits the amount of the court-appointed appraisers’ award with the clerk of the court, the case can proceed to conclusion in different ways. First, the acquiring agency and the landowner can continue to engage in settlement negotiations. If the parties reach a settlement, the case is concluded. Second, if the landowner and agency are satisfied with the amount of just compensation determined by the court-appointed appraisers, they can accept that award, and the case is concluded. Lastly, if the agency does not agree with the amount of just compensation determined by the court-appointed appraisers, the agency must take steps to proceed to a trial. At trial, the landowner has the burden of proving the amount of just compensation.

If a trial on damages is requested, is it too late to settle the case with the landowner?

No. Like other lawsuits, the agency and a landowner can negotiate a settlement up to the time of a trial. In fact, it is not unusual for the parties in an eminent domain case to attempt to settle at different stages of litigation. Under Indiana law, the acquiring agency is required to make a settlement offer to the landowner at least 45.

 

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