Practice Areas & Industries: Hill, Farrer & Burrill LLP


Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation Litigation Return to Practice Areas & Industries

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Since its founding in 1923, the firm has specialized in eminent domain litigation, regularly representing property and business owners in counties throughout California as well as the U.S. District Courts and the Court of Federal Claims. Most of these claims are direct condemnation claims in which a government entity seeks to take the private property of our client. We have represented property owners of large development tracts, industrial, commercial and retail properties, railroad and other rights of way, working ranches and farms, and every other possible use of real estate. We also represent business owners in loss of business goodwill and related claims.

A significant number of our cases are inverse condemnation actions where the government engages in conduct which constitutes an unconstitutional taking of private property but does not institute a direct condemnation action. These cases can be based upon so-called regulatory or actual physical takings of property, or other unreasonable pre-condemnation conduct which damages the property.

As a result of our long experience in these areas, we have represented clients whose cases have made new law in the area of eminent domain. Los Angeles v. Retlaw Enterprises, Inc. (1976) 16 Cal. 3d 473 (upholding various appraisal theories in then the largest eminent domain award in California)  Cuna Mutual Insurance v. Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 382 (inverse condemnation action establishing property owner’s right to claim mitigation expenses incurred to protect property from threatened damage by public project); City of Vista v. Fielder (1996) 13 Cal.4th 612 (eminent domain case upholding commercial tenant's claims for leasehold bonus value and loss of business goodwill); Hawthorne Red. Agency v. Force Electronics (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 622 (eminent domain/inverse condemnation case requiring government to pay property owner immediately instead of over ten years for property taken and damages suffered)

Representative Matters

  • Successfully represented at trial a number of property owners in claims for precondemnation damages due to unreasonable precondemnation delay or conduct by the condemnation agencies. These cases included situations where the condemning agency downzoned the property in anticipation of condemnation, forced the removal of improvements, prevented development and hindered rental of the properties. See e.g. Hawthorne Red. Agency v. Force Electronics (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 622.
  • Successfully represented dozens of property owners whose properties were damaged or destroyed by Metro Rail tunneling and station construction on Wilshire and Hollywood Boulevards. Most of the inverse condemnation cases settled before trial; one inverse condemnation went to binding arbitration resulting in a substantial award to our client, the owner of the historic Wiltern theatre.
  • Prevailed at jury trial with verdict of $2,500,000 in an eminent domain and inverse condemnation action arising out of a Caltrans induced slide in Malibu. Our client also received reimbursement from the condemning agency for the fees and costs incurred in the case.
  • Prevailed at trial of liability for inverse condemnation in action whether government agency had preserved property within a future right of way, essentially refusing to allow development within an area planned for future infrastructure. After the liability finding, the case settled for $4,500,000 plus reimbursement of litigation expenses. Settled before trial several other similar cases based upon claimed preservation of property for future public improvements.
  • Prevailed at jury trial and on appeal in an eminent domain action with an additional damage award for unreasonable precondemnation delay and conduct by the condemning agency. Our client also received reimbursement from the condemning agency for the fees and costs incurred in the case.  Hawthorne Red. Agency v. Force Electronics (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 622
  • Prevailed on appeal in an inverse condemnation case involving the El Capitan Theatre. The retrial led to a finding of liability after which the case settled.  Our client also received an award for the fees and costs it incurred in the case from initial trial, on appeal, and on the retrial. Cuna Mutual Insurance v. Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 382
  • Prevailed at trial with verdict of $84,700,000 in an eminent domain case involving the attempt by the State and City to condemn Los Angeles Union Station; our clients were awarded their fees and costs incurred after the State and City abandoned the taking due to the size of the verdict. State of California v. Union Pacific Land Resources (1985)  179 Cal.App. 3d 307.
  • Successfully prevented the condemnation of property based upon redevelopment agencies’ failures to offer owner participation rights to condemnees.
  • Successfully prevented the condemnation of property based upon the condemnor’s failure to comply with CEQA prior to initiation of the condemnation action.
  • Successfully prevented the condemnation of properties sought for public uses.
  • Represented hundreds of business owners in loss of business goodwill claims caused by condemnation, as well as claims for improvements, inventory and mitigation expenses. The subject businesses included, amongst others, gasoline and service stations, markets and mini-marts, retail chains, restaurants, discount stores, theatres, and industrial plants.
  • Successfully represented client in obtaining a $15,500,000 settlement of partial taking eminent domain case after appeal.
  • Represented literally hundreds of property owners whose property has been condemned by federal, state and local governmental entities, special districts, and utilities. This representation has involved all types of property from high rise office buildings, industrial parks, shopping centers, residential developments, apartment buildings, farmland, and unimproved land. Some of these cases have gone to jury trial at which our clients prevailed, but the overwhelming majority settled before trial.
  • Represented the nation's second largest railroad company against various public entities in a multi-million dollar inverse condemnation claim involving flood damage and drainage design.
  • Represented client in City’s eminent domain action to construct road that bifurcated client’s property in Elk Grove, California. Obtained favorable settlement, forcing City to pay full value for property taken, and leaving client with significant properties made valuable by the city’s improvements.
  • Represented property owner in inverse condemnation action against City and County for flooding damage caused by inadequate flood control facilities.  Obtained successful settlement for client.
  • Brought an inverse condemnation action against the metropolitan transportation authority (MTA) on behalf of the owner of nationally recognized historic theater in Hollywood that had incurred significant expenses to mitigate damage to the historic theater during MTA train station construction. After an adverse ruling at the first trial, obtained full reversal from court of appeal in a published decision recognized as one of California Real Property Journal’s Top Ten Real Property Cases of 2003: Cuna Mutual Life Insurance Co.v. L.A. County MTA (2003) 108 Ca.App.4th 382. After successfully establishing liability on retrial, MTA paid $1.6 million in settlement to avoid the damages trial.
  • Brought an inverse condemnation, breach of contract and contractual warranty claim against a City that had failed to adequately plan for flood control resulting from development in a high desert watershed. The flood caused significant property and business damages. After we defeated the City’s effort to obtain summary judgment, defendants paid $3.4 million.
  • Represented landowner in eminent domain action arising from a taking by a public agency for roadway improvements. Obtained verdict at trial that greatly exceeded agency’s settlement offer and included the recovery of fees and costs.