Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – March 19, 2015

Lavon Coleman v. Miss. Transportation Commission – eminent domain –  The MTC sought to purchase 18.61 of land in DeSoto County owned by Lavon Coleman.  MCA Sect. 43-37-3 requires the MTC to appraise the property and make a fair-market offer before filing suit.  An appraisal was done appraising the property at 380,300.   The state offered 380,000. Seven months later,  MTC filed an eminent-domain complaint against Coleman. “The property was condemned pursuant to Section 11-27-81 of the Mississippi Code for immediate right of title and possession under the ‘quick-take statutes.’ See Miss. Code Ann. § 11-27-81 (Rev. 2004).”  The Court appointed an independent appraiser who appraised the property at $288,455.   The MTC’s appraiser appraised the property a second time for  $289,400. At the hearing, Coleman moved only to admit evidence of  the prenegotiation offer, and to cross examine MTC’s appraiser on the disparity in value between his two appraisal reports. The trial court refused because it was an offer of compromise excludable under MRE 408. The Court directed a verdict for the amount of  $289,400. The Miss.S.Ct. reverses holding that an appraisal is not an offer in compromise pursuant to 408.

We find that MTC’s first appraisal, in addition to cross-examination thereon, should have been available to the jury for consideration of MTC’s prima facie demonstration of value and Coleman’s claim to just compensation. Because the appraisal was erroneously excluded under Rule 408, where that rule did not apply, this exclusion was reversible error. We note that the appraisal, like all proffered evidence, is still subject to the Rule 403 considerations discussed earlier.

Pat Harrison Waterway Dist. v. Lamar County – Lamar County wishes to withdraw from the Pat Harrison Waterway District (“the District”). The question presented is the amount of money Lamar County must pay to do so. The chancery court found that Lamar County owed $337,088, excluding the District’s perpetual park operating and maintenance obligations as “contractual obligations . . . that are outstanding” under the statute. We affirm.”

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