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Burdine Wynne Protects Landowners

Property rights are of course among the most important, bedrock principles on which this country was founded. Burdine Wynne is committed to safeguarding owner rights and securing the compensation property owners deserve under what can be extremely frustrating, complex and difficult circumstances when a government, or even a private company, expresses an intent to take property by force through a process known as condemnation. Our firm is here to guide you through every step of the process, be responsive, and work diligently to protect your rights and property value.   

Burdine Wynne eminent domain and condemnation lawyers represent landowners who have been forced to confront governmental entities or common carrier pipeline companies taking their land for an alleged public use. Property owners are entitled to recover “just compensation” in the event of a taking. Of course, each property is unique. That is the inherent nature and value of property in general. But other critical aspects influence value of property such as determining its highest and best use. The firm works with seasoned real estate appraisal experts, business experts and accounting experts to determine the highest and best use for each property at issue and ultimately recover just compensation for landowners in Texas and across the country.

Burdine Wynne Handles Complex, High Value Condemnation Cases

Burdine Wynne excels when high value, complex commercial properties are at stake. The firm is at the cutting edge of the profession and recently handled one of the largest, most complex eminent domain cases ever reported. The firm represented ExxonMobil in a Louisiana eminent domain case involving the taking of ExxonMobil’s salt dome and oil storage caverns and the case involved nuanced application of the law that had rarely been even considered, much less applied, including questions regarding ownership of underground caverns, how those caverns should be valued, and what market forces supported the underlying value of the caverns. The taking firm, a private entity that claimed to be cloaked in the power of eminent domain, initially offered only $60 million to acquire the property and salt domes. We engaged preeminent engineering experts, oil storage and supply market experts, property appraisal experts, and fought repeatedly over application of the law to a complex set of facts. After an extensive discovery and investigation process, including production of materials and obtaining key deposition testimony, our legal and industry team of experts appraised the subject property at over $480 million and calculated $220 million in damages from termination of a lease, representing an increase over the pre-suit offer of 1150%. The case settled on the eve of trial after Burdine Wynne successfully responded to numerous dispositive motions seeking to exclude the underlying expert appraisal methodology and dismiss the lease termination damage claim asserted by ExxonMobil. The Court rejected the taker’s legal arguments at every turn. Burdine Wynne tackles each condemnation case with creativity, aggression and efficiency that is unmatched. If the likes of ExxonMobil trust Burdine Wynne to handle its most sensitive, high stakes condemnation cases, you can, too.     

Do Not Accept an Initial Offer Under Threat of Condemnation

Do not let public or private entities infringe on your property rights. Do not accept their initial offer to take your property under a threat of force. Their incentive is to try to extract below market deal on a low-ball initial offer because, unfortunately, it often works. Do not let them take the same advantage of you. Contact Burdine Wynne for a consultation regarding your case. Our dedicated condemnation lawyers are ready to fight for you and ensure that you receive the just compensation you deserve. 

Understanding Condemnation Proceedings

What is Condemnation?

Condemnation is the legal process through which the government or other authorized entities (typically common carrier entities such as pipeline or electrical companies), acquire private property for a supposed public use. The power to initiate a condemnation proceeding is known as eminent domain. In Texas, eminent domain is governed by both the Texas Constitution and state statutes, providing property owners with critical rights and protections.

Key Steps in the Condemnation Process

Initial Offer and Disclosure of Information: The condemning authority, often a government entity or utility, initiates the condemnation process by expressing the intent to acquire private property for a public purpose. The initial offer must be sent by certified mail and include all appraisal reports prepared or acquired by the condemning authority related to the subject property in the preceding 10 years. The condemning authority must also inform the property owner that he or she has the right to discuss the offer with others, including legal counsel. Initial offers are often based on a flawed appraisal of the property’s value. Property owners always have the right to negotiate terms of the acquisition. The earlier you obtain effective legal representation the better, especially during this stage to ensure fair treatment and ensure a true fair market valuation.

Bona Fide Offer: Before acquiring property through condemnation and at least 30 days after making an initial offer, the condemning authority must make a written bona fide, final offer before acquiring the subject property. The final offer must include a landowner’s bill of rights statement and describe whether the offer includes any damages for the remainder portion of the subject property that is not being acquired, if any, and an updated appraisal. The property owner is entitled to have at least 14 days to respond to the final offer. 

Commissioner’s Hearing: In the event the parties cannot agree on a sale price and related damages, the condemning authority may file suit in the county of the subject property.  The court with jurisdiction over the property will appoint special commissioners to consider the dispute over value and damages. The respective parties will then present their case during a commissioners’ hearing, during which the court-appointed commissioners assess the subject property’s value and hear arguments from both parties regarding its fair market value. This step is designed to expedite the process and resolve valuation disputes without a full trial.

Eminent Domain Lawsuit: If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation or if either party objects to the commissioners’ findings, either party may appeal to the court with jurisdiction over the matter and request a trial to determine the proper amount of just compensation. 

Possession: The condemning authority generally may not take possession of the subject property until it has paid the owner all damages and costs awarded by the commissioners or deposits that amount into the registry of the court. If the condemning authority is a private entity, it must further provide a surety bond to secure additional damages that may be awarded after a trial in court. 

Why Legal Representation is Essential

Having an experienced condemnation attorney on your side is crucial throughout this process. A skilled attorney can:

  • Ensure that you receive fair and just compensation for your property.
  • Navigate the complex legal requirements and appraisal issues that inevitably arise.
  • Work closely with a team of experts. 
  • Advocate for your rights in negotiations or court proceedings.
  • Provide guidance and support to help you make informed decisions.

Burdine Wynne’s Value Proposition

Burdine Wynne typically charges a contingent fee only on the increased value for the property above the original offer from the condemning authority. If you’re facing condemnation, contact Burdine Wynne for expert legal representation. We are dedicated to protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.