Summary

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain is the process by which the government can take private property for public use without the consent of the owner. We’ve answered Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Domain, on this dedicated FAQ page.

Hahn Loeser’s experience in eminent domain law:

Hahn Loeser has experienced eminent domain attorneys across multiple areas of law, including litigation, land use and zoning, environmental, real estate, municipal, corporate and tax. The eminent domain process often spans several areas of law and, as a large firm, we are able to call upon attorneys with the relevant experience when needed.

Beyond our services, our Eminent Domain Team of attorneys works closely with other professionals to bring our clients the resources they need, including appraisers, land planners, accountants, and engineers.

We have experience representing clients in eminent domain cases in Florida against the following condemning authorities:

  • Brevard County
  • City of Bonita Springs
  • City of Cape Coral
  • City of Fort Lauderdale
  • City of Fort Myers
  • Charlotte County
  • Charlotte County School Board
  • Florida Department of Transportation
  • Florida Gas Transmission Line
  • Florida Power and Light
  • Hendry County
  • Indian River County
  • Lee County
  • Lee County Electric Cooperative
  • Lee County School Board
  • Manatee County
  • Miami-Dade County
  • Okeechobee County
  • Orange County School Board
  • Palm Beach County
  • Pasco County
  • South Florida Water Management District
  • St. Lucie County
  • Sabal Trail Gas Transmission Company

Our Approach: 

We have handled thousands of eminent domain and property rights cases throughout Florida on behalf of our clients. Our long presence in Southwest Florida has provided us a unique advantage of understanding the local regulations and knowing the governmental representatives who can impact your case.

In addition to our experience representing property owners against condemning authorities, our attorneys have also previously represented condemning authorities, giving them insight not only into the issues facing the property owner, but also the issues, strategies and insights of the condemning authority.

We bring this experience and insight to each of our client relationships and provide representation throughout every phase of the eminent domain process. Our representation includes:

  • Pre-litigation project updates
    Twice a year (or more often as projects become more active), we provide you with updates on the status of the project and how any changes may impact your property.
  • Pre-litigation counseling and property analysis
    Prior to suit being filed by the condemning authority, we will meet with you to discuss your property, your rights, the project, and how the project will impact your property.
  • Preparing and filing all responses in the eminent domain lawsuit
    Once suit is filed, we will file responses on your behalf, including all responsive pleadings, discovery, motions and memoranda as may be necessary.
  • Withdrawal of funds for use by you throughout the litigation
    At an early stage in litigation, the condemning authority will deposit its estimate of value, including any damages, into the registry of the court. Subject to the interests of others (such as mortgagees, taxing authorities, etc.) we will file a motion on your behalf to withdraw the condemning authority’s estimate of value once deposited, so that you have use of those funds during the litigation.
  • Consultation with the experts necessary to fully analyze your case and determine full compensation for you
    Experts needed to analyze your case will be retained to evaluate the value of the property being taken and any impacts on the remainder of the property. If a business is involved, the appropriate business consultants will also be retained to determine damages to the business.
  • Non-binding mediation
    Before trial, mediation will be ordered by the court. We represent you in mediation presenting to the condemning authority and the mediator your position in the case. The vast majority of eminent domain cases are resolved in mediation.
  • Jury trial and appeals
    Should mediation not be successful, our team will try the case in front of a 12-person jury and handle any appeals that result.

Your Rights In Eminent Domain Cases: 

Hahn Loeser’s eminent domain attorneys represent private property owners, business owners, and commercial tenants, ensuring they understand their rights under this law and that their interests are protected. These rights include:

  • Entitlement to compensation for property that is taken under eminent domain.
  • Compensation for damages caused to the remaining property as a result of the taking of property through eminent domain.
  • Rejecting the government’s offer of compensation for the property.
  • Obtaining an appraisal to determine the market value of the property being taken and any severance damages that may result.
  • Legal representation, even during pre-lawsuit negotiation and through trial, if needed.
  • Compensation for damages to a business.
  • The condemning authority is responsible for all costs of representation, including fees for appraisers, land use consultants, engineers or other experts needed to analyze your case. In addition to these experts, the condemning authority is also required to pay your attorney’s fees.

Our Eminent Domain Counsel Costs You Nothing: 

Hiring eminent domain counsel is an important step in the condemnation process. It is important to retain counsel at an early stage in the process. Actions that you take regarding your property can impact valuation issues when they become relevant later in the proceedings. The condemning authority is responsible for paying all of the costs you would otherwise incur. Retaining counsel as soon as you become aware that the government is considering condemning your property is the first step in making sure you are fully compensated. The advice you receive and the actions you take may very well impact the outcome of your case. The advice costs you nothing.

 

 

Contact Us

2400 First Street, Suite 300
Fort Myers, FL  33901
MAP
239.208.5465

Our Eminent Domain Team

Eminent Domain Professionals

Attorney Accolades

Attorneys Mike Whitt and Ken Jones have been recognized in multiple years by Best Lawyers .

Best Lawyers 2021

 

Mike Whitt and Ken Jones earned AV Preeminent status from Martindale-Hubbell.

 

Ken Jones has also been recognized by Super Lawyers.

Ken Jones Super Lawyer

Mike Whitt is Board Certified by The Florida Bar as a Specialist in Business Litigation.

Florida Bar Board Certified in Business Litigation

Mike Whitt, Ken Jones and Meredith McBride have all been appointed to The Florida Bar Association’s Eminent Domain Committee.

The Florida Bar Association

Mike Whitt and Ken Jones were named Top Lawyers in Southwest Florida by Naples Illustrated.

FAQs About Eminent Domain

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain refers to the inherent power of the government to take private property for public use.  

When a property owner is faced with the government taking their property under eminent domain, it is essential that they understand their rights. The Hahn Loeser Eminent Domain Team has extensive experience representing property owners on eminent domain issues. With more than 100 years of combined experience, our attorneys and support professionals understand all aspects of eminent domain law and use their experience to help clients obtain the best possible outcomes.

Who has the power of eminent domain?

Eminent domain is an inherent power of government.  The United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution are constraints on the exercise of that power.  In addition to the government, various non-governmental entities are delegated the power of eminent domain by the government such as utility companies, water management districts, port authorities, school districts, etc.

Can the government’s use of the eminent domain power be challenged? 

There are certain defenses that can be interposed when the government seeks to take your property although they are fairly limited.  They may include procedural errors, lack of sufficient authority, bad faith or other defenses that relate to the process.  The use of eminent domain powers can only be for a public purpose so if it is being used for a private benefit it can be challenged.  The vast majority of eminent domain cases are valid exercises of the power and, instead, are contests over the amount of compensation due the property owner.

Can the government actually take someone’s house?

Yes. It may be a scary thought that the answer is “yes,” but again, the property owner must be made whole and paid full compensation There are many instances where residences are condemned for public projects such as roadways, bridges, parks or flood control structures. 

How much does it cost to contest the amount of compensation being received in a condemnation case? 

The short answer is nothing.  We will accept your case with no fee obligation to you.  We will agree to accept as our fee the amount due or awarded pursuant to Florida law.  The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state constitution mandates that the property owner receives full compensation and requires the condemning authority to pay the property owner’s costs including attorney’s fees, expert witness fees and all other costs reasonably necessary to protect the owner’s rights.  The court reasoned that anything less would fail to provide the property owner with full compensation.  

How long does the process take? 

As you can imagine, it varies significantly from case to case. In general, however, eminent domain cases are concluded within two years. Trial and appeals can extend that time.  The vast majority of eminent domain cases are resolved in mediation.  It is likely that yours will also.  It depends on the complexity of the case but, absent trial or appeal, 6 to 18 months is pretty standard. 

What kind of lawyer should I be looking for? 

The most important thing to look for in an attorney is someone who has significant experience in the eminent domain field. There are many lawyers with experience in other areas of law, but the vast majority do not have much or any experience in the eminent domain field.  You should also look for an attorney who has practiced in the local area.  It is helpful to have an attorney who is familiar with the judges, the people who work for the condemning authority and who is familiar with the locality in which the property is located.  

How do I stay updated on the project affecting my property? 

Our firm keeps current on the projects that are in the process of being considered, designed, approved or built. We keep our clients updated during all phases of a project. In addition, we also post updates on our website so you can always go there to check the latest news on all the current projects. 

Feel free to check our website to learn more about project’s affecting your property. We take pride in staying current on the projects status.

Learn more about the Eminent Domain Professionals that are serving the Fort Myers, Florida and surrounding areas.  

Videos Discussing the Eminent Domain Process

In this series of videos, our Eminent Domain Team shares key insights into the eminent domain process.  Please also refer to our Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Domain, which provides additional information that may be helpful.

What is Condemnation?

The Pre-Taking Process – How Does it Work?
Condemnation Authority’s Process

The Pre-Taking Process – How Does it Work?
Condemnation Authority’s Process

Litigation – How Does the Litigation Process Progress?
Commencement of Litigation

Litigation – How Does the Litigation Process Progress?
Challenging the Taking

Litigation – How Does the Litigation Process Progress?
Preparing Your Case

What is Mediation?

What About a Jury Trial?

What is Apportionment?

Videos - Project Updates

In the videos below, Hahn Loeser’s Eminent Domain Team provides helpful updates on select eminent domain projects in Southwest Florida for our clients and those in our community who are impacted.

Vanderbilt Beach Road Extension

Vanderbilt Beach Road Extension

September 2020

 November 2020

Festival Park

September 2020