Randall A. Smith, the Louisiana Member of Owners' Counsel, recently secured a jury verdict of $9,566,640 as just compensation for the expropriation of property owned at 1732 Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. The verdict awards the property owner more than double the $4.5 million originally paid by the state of Louisiana when it took the property using the power of eminent domain in 2010. Now the state must pay more than $5 million plus interest to the owner and will also be taxed with paying the owner’s attorneys’ fees, experts’ fees and reasonable trial expenses.
Located at the corner of Canal Street and South Claiborne Avenue, the property is the site of the former Grand Palace Hotel originally constructed in the 1950’s to house both apartment units and commercial businesses. The owner, a Washington D.C. developer, purchased the property in 2008 at auction with the intent of redeveloping the site. The property was acquired by the Louisiana State University as part of the proposed 34-acre University Medical Center campus.
The Times-Picayune reported: "We think this is a big deal," said New Orleans attorney Randy Smith, who represents Thoron, the Washington, D.C., development firm that owned 1732 Canal St. property. "I've got a dozen or so more of these heading to trial and this sets the standard."
Prior to trial, Smith challenged the taking of his client's property as an illegal expropriation due to the fact that the most recent plans for the project indicate that the property will be used as green space rather than for public facilities. He did not challenge the public purpose of the project itself rather the specific use for which his client's property would be put. The state, in contrast, claimed that the land will be needed for a future expansion that has yet to be planned. Unfortunately, both the trial and appellate courts rejected the owner’s challenge to the taking. The jury, however, agreed with the owner regarding the property’s value finding that the state owed the additional $5,066,640 plus interest as just compensation.