Court ruling bolsters property owner rights

Property owners in condemnation proceedings now have additional leverage to ensure that they are made whole for losing their property—not only justly compensated but fully reimbursed for all attorney fees incurred in the process, thanks to the efforts of Josh Stadtler, Brian Talcott, and Dunn Carney’s Litigation Team.

In October, in TriMet v. Joseph Y. Aizawa and Deborah L. Noble-Irons  the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed last year’s decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the Multnomah County Circuit Court, bringing Dunn Carney a long-awaited victory in an appeal that dates back to 2011. TriMet sought to acquire part of the American Plaza Condominium to construct the Milwaukie MAX line. Dunn Carney represented one of the condominium owners at the trial court level. TriMet initially offered only $1,040 as just compensation for condemnation. Through Dunn Carney’s representation, in 2013 the property owner received a judgment for $22,000, plus payment by TriMet of the attorney fees she incurred in litigating the fair market value of the condemned property.

TriMet, however, took the position that the property owner was only entitled to payment by TriMet of a portion of her attorney fees (only those attorney fees the property owner incurred in litigating the fair market value of the condemned property, not those additional attorney fees the property owner incurred in obtaining an attorney fee award from the trial court).  The trial court ruled in the property owner’s favor (i.e., that TriMet was required under the condemnation statute to pay all of the property owner’s fees).  TriMet appealed to the Court of Appeals, where Dunn Carney again prevailed on the property owner’s behalf, triggering a further appeal to the Supreme Court where Dunn Carney once again prevailed on the property owner’s behalf.

The Supreme Court agreed with Dunn Carney’s interpretation of the condemnation statute, finding that it entitles a property owner to be fully whole for any and all attorney fees incurred in litigating the fair market value of the condemned property and also the additional attorney fees incurred in obtaining an attorney fee award for those fees.

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