Bland v. Bulloch County, A92A0733

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Citation205 Ga.App. 317,422 S.E.2d 223
Docket NumberNo. A92A0733,A92A0733
Decision Date16 July 1992

Edenfield, Stone & Cox, Gerald M. Edenfield, James B. Rutledge III, E. Lee Davis, Jr., Statesboro, for appellant.

Franklin, Taulbee, Rushing & Bunce, James B. Franklin, Barbara N. McKay, Statesboro, for appellee.


In this condemnation case, the sole issue is whether the court erred in instructing the jury on how to determine the fair market value of a partial taking. It was a 250'-wide, 15-acre, strip at an angle through the middle of condemnee's 75-acre generally rectangular parcel, taken for a limited access road. Not at issue here is the determination of consequential benefits or consequential damages to the remainder; appellant does not challenge the court's charge on the calculation of that item of damages.

1. The issue as framed in the first enumeration of error and argued was adequately preserved below. Appellant complains that the particular jury charge was improper and confusing because it restricted the jury to a pro rata valuation of the property taken. At the conclusion of the court's instructions to the jury, appellant expressed his exceptions, including the following: "We also except to the court's charging on the take, the charge that they must give consequential damages--I mean give damages, assessing the value of the whole farm, before they can assess damages on that portion for the take. We differ on the Gunnels decision, and I understand that." Considering the context in which the matter was raised and the reference to the differing views of the meaning of the appellate decision, the ground presented for our review was sufficiently raised and ruled on in the trial court.

2. When instructing the jury about just compensation for the part taken, the court referred to this compensation as "direct damages or damages in money for the take." It defined fair market value as "the price which property will bring when offered for sale by one who desires but is not under necessity to sell and will sell it and it is bought by another who wishes to buy but is not under a necessity to do so." It explained that in computing fair market value, not only the present use but also the past and reasonable potential uses of the property being taken should be considered. That included the taken property's highest and best use, the use "that will bring the best return to the owner." It also included any increase or decrease in value due to general information that the property was to be condemned for a road.

In further describing how the value of the taken part was to be arrived at, the court gave the contested charge:

"In order to determine total damages in a case of this kind and in this case, you should make every effort to determine the fair market value of the entire tract of property Mr. Bland owned before any of it was taken, and then you should make every effort to determine the fair market value of what was taken, the 15.84 acres, and considering that part that was taken as part of the whole."

Unobjected-to was the next instruction which is related: "Within a given piece of property, some areas of the property may have greater value than other areas in the same property...."

Thereafter the court instructed the jury how to calculate damages to the remainder, if it found any.

Considering especially the whole context in which the charge at issue was given, the jury could understand that the relationship between the part taken and the whole from which it was taken must be the basis upon which the fair market value of the part taken was calculated.

Neither OCGA § 22-2-63 nor OCGA § 22-2-109, which govern the manner of assessment and set out the factors to be considered in determining compensation, express this relational mode. See also OCGA § 22-2-62.

" 'Value' is a relative term depending on the circumstances of the land involved." Cobb & Eldridge, Ga. Law of Damages, 3d ed., § 16-6. Thus, evidence which tends to show the value of the land for any particular purpose to which it may legitimately be put is relevant. Id., § 16-14. Obviously, then, the setting of the land is to be taken into account, for that will help determine its highest and best use.

The charge here suffers from the infirmity noted by Judge Carley and adopted by the Supreme Court in Department of Transp. v. Gunnels, 255 Ga. 495, 496, 340 S.E.2d 12 (1986), "[i]t appears that employment of the term 'whole lot' in the contested charge, which purports to give the measure of damages for the portion actually taken and considered as a part of the whole, is in fact easily confused with a statement of the proper measure of consequential damages to that portion which remains."

A pro rata method of ascertaining the value of a partial taking is not necessarily proper because the value of the part taken is not dependent on the size of the whole. If, for example, the 15-acre strip was taken from 105 acres ( 1/7 of the whole) rather than from 75 acres ( 1/5 of the whole), the pro rata method could result in a lower value simply because of the size of the whole. There was evidence that pro rata value would be greater for smaller tracts of land. The county even pointed out in its opening statement that all the appraisers would say that smaller tracts sell for more money per acre than larger tracts. In other words, selling 15 acres would not necessarily be at the same per-acre price as selling 75 acres. Yet it is only the 15 acres that is being "sold" through condemnation.

In addition, the pro rata method does not accommodate variations in the value of different parts of a tract; a frontage strip may have more value than a back strip, or a pond may have a different value than a hill on the same tract. The pro rata method averages the value of whatever the condemnee happens to own, rather than measuring the value of the taken portion as it is, with its unique characteristics and particular setting. Even if the whole tract is constant and has no varying features upon it, the fair market value of the whole if it were sold (wholesale) may be less than the...

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8 cases
  • Department of Transp. v. Scott, A96A1643
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • January 13, 1997
    ...reasonable potential uses of the property being taken, including the taken property's highest and best use. See Bland v. Bulloch County, 205 Ga.App. 317, 318(2), 422 S.E.2d 223 (1992). There was no 3. DOT next argues it was improper for the trial court to permit the property owner's apprais......
  • Department of Transp. v. Davison Inv. Co., Inc., A95A2152
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 15, 1996 property prior to taking" is little more than a restatement of the pro rata method disapproved in Bland v. Bulloch County, 205 Ga.App. 317, 422 S.E.2d 223. The present case well demonstrates the inadequacy of a pro rata evaluation since the land taken was part of a small fraction of t......
  • Department of Transp. v. Patten Seed Co., A07A1842.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 14, 2008
    ...his recovery as to both factors below his actual damages. (Citation, punctuation and emphasis omitted.) Bland v. Bulloch County, 205 Ga.App. 317, 319-320, 422 S.E.2d 223 (1992). See also Loggins v. Dept. of Transp., 264 Ga.App. 514, 515, 591 S.E.2d 365 (2003) (just compensation for a portio......
  • Dunaway v. Columbia County, A94A0721
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • April 19, 1994
    ...of consequential damages. It is not a proper standard for calculation of the value of the property taken. In Bland v. Bulloch County, 205 Ga.App. 317, 318, 422 S.E.2d 223, cert. denied, the trial court charged: " 'In order to determine [the value of the part taken you should determine] the ......
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