DILLARD, P. J., RAY and SELF, JJ.
Dillard, Presiding Judge.
2007, the Georgia Department of Transportation
("DOT") filed a petition in the Superior Court of
Laurens County, under OCGA § 32-3-4, to condemn access
rights to property owned by Christy Curry for the
construction of a limited-access highway. Following trial, a
jury awarded Curry $86, 000 as "just compensation,
" and the trial court entered a judgment
accordingly. Curry now appeals that award as inadequate and
seeks a new trial, arguing that the trial court erred by
instructing the jury on a means of determining consequential
damages that was inaccurate as a matter of law and
inapplicable to the facts of this case. For the reasons set
forth infra, we affirm.
in favor of the verdict,  the record shows that the subject
property owned by Curry is located in Dublin, Laurens County,
Georgia, at the intersection of Georgia Highway 257 and the
Georgia Highway 441 Bypass. Prior to the construction of the
441 Bypass, the county road that crossed Highway 257 to form
that intersection was known as Firetower Road. Also prior to
the 441 Bypass construction, Highway 257 had been widened to
a five-lane highway with a middle turn lane, and the DOT
acquired both property and access rights from Curry at that
time for the project.
March 23, 2007, the DOT filed a condemnation petition to
acquire all of Curry's access rights on Firetower Road,
which constituted approximately 1, 313 linear feet, in order
to begin construction on the 441 Bypass, which was to be a
limited-access highway. And indeed, it is undisputed-and was
at the time-that after the acquisition, Curry would no longer
have access to Firetower Road, as that road would cease to
exist. At the same time that it filed its petition, the DOT
paid into the trial court's registry $118, 250, which it
estimated as just and adequate compensation for Curry's
access rights. Shortly thereafter, Curry filed an answer to
the petition, contesting the adequacy of the compensation.
2015, the matter proceeded to a jury trial, focusing
exclusively on the amount of just and adequate compensation
to be paid to Curry for the acquisition of the access rights.
During the trial, the DOT presented evidence demonstrating
that Curry owned another tract of property on Highway 257,
which adjoined the subject property, and that she had access
to Highway 257 via both tracts. In addition, the DOT
presented the testimony of a civil engineer, who testified
regarding the scope of the project and its affect on
Curry's access, and a real estate appraiser, who
testified as to the value of Curry's property before and
after the acquisition and opined that the diminution in value
Curry suffered based on loss of access rights was $68, 755.
Curry, in turn, presented testimony from another real estate
appraiser, who claimed that the acquisition resulted in the
subject property suffering a diminution in value of $207,
000, due to the fact that Curry could no longer access areas
of her property that could be developed for commercial uses.
conclusion of the trial, the jury awarded Curry $86, 000. And
thus, because the DOT had initially paid $118, 250 into the
court's registry, the trial court entered judgment
against Curry in the amount of $32, 250. This appeal
sole enumeration of error, Curry contends that the trial
court erred by instructing the jury on a means of determining
consequential damages for loss of right of access that was
inaccurate as a matter of law and inapplicable to the facts
of this case. We disagree.
well established that a jury charge must "be adjusted to
the evidence, apt, and a correct statement of the applicable
law." But jury charges cannot be construed in
isolation. Instead, they must be "read and considered as
a whole in determining whether the charge contained
error." Importantly, the review of an allegedly
erroneous jury instruction is "a legal question, and we
therefore owe no deference to the trial court's ruling
and apply the 'plain legal error' standard of
review." Bearing these guiding principles in mind,
we turn now to Curry's specific claim of error.
matter, shortly after instructing the jury as to the
parties' stipulation that the DOT had taken 1, 313.26
linear feet of access rights from Curry, the trial court
further instructed as follows:
Now, the property rights taken in this case are access
And the damage in this case is called consequential damages
and pertains to the property of the owner after access rights
The Condemnee is entitled to recover the difference in the
fair market value of her property before and after the taking
of her access rights.
after explaining the concept of a limited-access highway
under the law, the court ...