United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, PLAINTIFF
AN EASEMENT AND RIGHT-OF-WAY OVER 0.34 ACRE OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, IN ATTALA COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, and STEPHEN OLYMPIA SMITH, et al DEFENDANTS
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff United States of America's
motion for summary judgment. Doc. 13. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court finds the motion should be granted.
United States brought this eminent domain action to obtain an
easement and right of way for the use by the Tennessee Valley
Authority. With the complaint, the United States filed a
declaration of taking stating that intended to take an
easement and right of way for the use of the Tennessee Valley
Authority for the operating and maintaining power and
telephone lines. Decl. of Taking ¶ 4, Doc. 2. The
easement sought is described in full in an attachment to the
Declaration of Taking. See Easement Description,
complaint identified Stephen Olympia Smith, Gary Alfred
Smith, and Gwendolyn Leatric Smith Harwick as owning said
property as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The
United States also filed a notice of condemnation and served
each of the landowners listed above. Pursuant to 40 U.S.C.
§§ 3114-3118 this Court granted immediate
possession of the easement and right-of-way to the TVA.
on independent appraisals commissioned by the TV A, the TVA
estimated fair and just compensation for the easement to be
$600 and deposited that amount with the Clerk of the Court.
serving the Defendants, the United States and Defendant
Gwendolyn Hardwick settled her interest in the property for
$200. Neither of the two remaining Defendants has filed an
answer objecting to the taking or demanding a jury trial on
the issue of compensation. The United States now seeks
summary judgment, asking this Court to determine the amount
of compensation due to the remaining owners and distribute
the funds accordingly.
Judgment Standard in Eminent Domain Cases
an action involving eminent domain under federal law, the
court tries all issues, including compensation" except
when a party demands a jury trial "within the time to
answer." Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(h). Here, no Defendant
demanded a jury trial, and so, the Court may decide the issue
eminent domain proceeding, summary judgment may be granted
under Rule 56 when there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact. "Summary judgment is appropriate in a
condemnation case where there is no disputed issue of
material fact." Transwestem Pipeline Co. LLC v.
46.78 Acres of Permanent Easement Located in Maricopa
Cty., 473 Fed.Appx. 778, 779 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing
Etalook v. Exxon Pipeline Co., 831 F.2d 1440,
1446-47 (9th Cir. 1987)); see also United States v. 0.225
Acres of Land in Parish of Plaquemines, La, Etc., No.
16-0792, 2017 WL 2618852, at *4 (E.D. La. Jun. 6, 2017)
(summarily decided issue of compensation where no land owner
appeared); United States exrel. Tennessee Valley
Authority v. Tree-Removal Rights with Respect to land in
McNairy County, Tenn., No. 15-1008, 2015 WL 5499434
(W.D. Tenn. Sept. 16, 2015) (granting summary judgment in
eminent domain proceeding on the issue of compensation).
party moving for summary judgment bears the initial
responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its
motion and identifying those portions of the record it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). "An issue of fact is material only
if 'its resolution could affect the outcome of the
action'." Manning v. Chevron Chem. Co.,
LLC, 332 F.3d 874, 877 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Wyatt v. Hunt Plywood Co., 297 F.3d 405, 408 (5th
Cir. 2002)). The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to
"go beyond the pleadings and by... affidavits, or by the
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial."." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted.);
Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch Dist., 268 F.3d
275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical
Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995).
Fifth Amended provides, in relevant part, that no
"private property be taken for public use, without just
compensation." U.S. Const, amend. V. In most cases,
"just compensation" is "the fair market value
of the property on the date it is appropriated. Kir by
Forest Indus., Inc. v. United States, 467 U.S. 1, 10,
104 S.Ct. 2187, 2194, 81 L.Ed.2d 1 (1984). Where, as here,
the United States took an easement rather than ownership of
the property, compensation is the "the difference
between the market value of that tract before and after the
taking." United States v. 8.41 Acres of Land, More
or Less, Situated in Orange Cty., State of Tex., 680
F.2d 388, 391 (5th Cir. 1982)
United States submits, as evidence of the value of these
easements, the declaration of Ivan J. Antal, a certified
Mississippi property appraiser and TV A employee.
Declaration, Doc. 32-1. Antal stated that in preparing his
appraisal, he consulted two appraisal reports performed by
independent appraisers and submitted to the TVA. Id.
¶ 4. Both independent appraisers determined the fair
market value of the easement to be $575. Id. Based