United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
pending before the Court is Plaintiff Sabal Trail
Transmission, LLC's summary judgment motion on the issue
of just compensation in this condemnation action. As
discussed below, the Court grants Sabal Trail's motion
(ECF No. 40) and finds that $2, 700.00 is just compensation
for the easements.
Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC received authorization from the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build an interstate
natural gas pipeline. Sabal Trail brought this condemnation
action under the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. §§
717-717z, seeking permanent and temporary easements over one
tract of land in Mitchell County, Georgia. According to Sabal
Trail, the property was part of the Estate of Elijah Moore,
and Sabal Trail named as Defendants in this action the Estate
and individuals “known to have or claim an interest in
the Property from which easements and associated rights are
sought to be condemned.” Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1.
Sabal Trail also named as a Defendant the United States of
America because the Internal Revenue Service recorded a tax
lien on the property for the liability of Defendant Elijah
Wheeler. Id. Each Defendant was served personally
with notice of this action in accordance with Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 71.1(d)(3)(A) or by publication in accordance
with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1(d)(3)(B).
10, 2016, the Court concluded that Sabal Trail was entitled
to possession of the easements it sought once it posted a
security bond. Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v.
Estate, No. 4:16-CV-108, 2016 WL 3248367, at *7, *15
(M.D. Ga. June 10, 2016), amended, No. 4:16-CV-108, 2016 WL
3251577 (M.D. Ga. June 10, 2016). Sabal Trail posted the
security bond on July 1, 2016. Pl.'s Notice of Posting
Security Bonds, July 1, 2016, ECF No. 30. The only remaining
issue is just compensation.
compensation means “the fair market value of the
property on the date of the taking.” United States
ex rel. TVA v. 1.72 Acres of Land in Tenn., 821 F.3d
742, 756 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing United States v.
Miller, 317 U.S. 369, 373-74 (1943)). In a partial
takings case like this one, just compensation “is the
difference in fair market value of the whole tract before and
after the taking.” Id. (quoting United
States ex rel. TVA v. Easements and Rights-of-Way
over 6 Acres of Land, 117 F. App'x 422, 423 (6th
Cir. 2004)); accord United States v. 33.92356 Acres Of
Land, 585 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2009) (collecting cases);
United States v. 68.94 Acres of Land, More or Less,
Situate in Kent Cty., State of Del., 918 F.2d 389, 393
(3d Cir. 1990). Generally, “market or comparable sales
data . . . is the best evidence of market value.”
1.72 Acres of Land in Tenn., 821 F.3d at 757.
Trail argues that just compensation for the easements in this
case is $2, 700.00. Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 2, ECF No.
40-1. Summary judgment may be granted only “if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In this
condemnation case, Defendants have the “burden to
prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, what amount
constitutes just compensation.” 1.72 Acres of Land
in Tennessee, 821 F.3d at 756. Defendants were entitled
to “present evidence on the amount of compensation to
be paid.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(e)(3). None of the
Defendants responded to Sabal Trail's summary judgment
motion or presented any evidence on what amount constitutes
just compensation for the easements.
Trail did present evidence on the issue of just compensation:
the expert report of Zac Ryan, a certified real property
appraiser. Ryan Report, ECF No. 42 at 6-103. Ryan conducted
an appraisal of the property and concluded that the
“before” value of the parcel as of July 1, 2016
was $425, 000 and the “after” value, taking into
account the temporary and permanent easements, was $422, 300.
Id. at 8. Therefore, according to Ryan, just
compensation for the easements in this case is $2, 700.00.
Id. Again, Defendants did not present any evidence
on the issue of just compensation. Based on the evidence
before it, the Court concludes that $2, 700 is just
compensation for the easements in this case.
Payment of Compensation by Sabal Trail and Claimant's
Application for Obtaining Disbursement
twenty-eight days of the date of this Order, Sabal Trail
shall pay into the registry of the Court $2, 700 plus
prejudgment interest from the date of the taking (July 1,
2016), which shall be calculated at a legal rate of interest
of seven percent per annum simple interest. Once this amount
is paid into the registry of the Court, the security bond
previously posted by Sabal Trail shall be released.
may apply to the Court for distribution of the award in
accordance with their respective ownership interests.
Defendants may apply for a distribution of the award by
sending an application to the Clerk of Court, P.O. Box 124,
Columbus GA 31902. The Clerk shall docket each application
electronically. The application should include:
♦ The applicant's name, address, and email address
♦ The applicant's claimed interest in the property
and the basis for that claim.
♦ Proof of the applicant's interest in the
must be postmarked by December 1, 2017. Any
questions regarding the application process should be
directed to the Clerk's office via telephone
(706-649-7816) or email (email@example.com). If
multiple applications are received, the Court will schedule a
hearing to determine how the proceeds should be distributed.
Providing Notice to Defendants
the exception of the United States of America, none of the
Defendants have registered for electronic filing through the
Court's electronic filing system and thus will not
receive electronic notice of this Order automatically. The
Clerk shall serve a copy of this Order via U.S. mail on each
of the Defendants listed in Appendix A to this Order. And,
within seven days of the date of this Order, Sabal Trail