United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA upon the relation and for the use of the TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY PLAINTIFF
AN EASEMENT AND RIGHT-OF-WAY OVER .61 ACRE OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, IN CLAY COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, ANNETTE SMITH MILLER, TYRONE SMITH, JOYCE SMITH ROGERS, DENNIS SMITH, and STANLEY SMITH DEFENDANTS
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
November 15, 2017, the United States of America filed this
eminent domain action to acquire an easement and right-of-way
over .61 acres of land against five Defendants, each having
an undivided one-fifth interest in the land. Now before the
Court is the United States' Motion  for Summary
Judgment. The Defendants failed to file a response, making
this issue ripe for review.
United States of America seeks an easement and right-of-way
over .61 acres of land located in Clay County, Mississippi
for the use of the Tennessee Valley Authority
(“TVA”), through eminent domain. The United
States identified Annette Smith Miller, Tyrone Smith, Joyce
Smith Rogers, Dennis Smith, and Stanley Smith as individual
Defendants, each having an undivided one-fifth interest in
the land. The United States also filed a Declaration of
Taking  and Notice of Condemnation . The Declaration of
Taking states that the easement and right-of-way are to be
used for the operation and maintenance of electric power
transmission circuits and communication circuits. The United
States personally served Defendants Tyrone Smith and Dennis
Smith. The United States served Defendants Annette Smith
Miller, Joyce Smith Rogers, and Stanley Smith by publication.
The Defendants did not file an answer, make a jury demand, or
otherwise respond to or appear in this action.
November 21, 2017, the United States filed its Motion  for
Entry of an Order of Immediate Possession. On February 7,
2018, this Court entered an Order granting TVA immediate
possession of the easement and right-of-way pursuant to Title
40 United States Code Sections 3114-3118.
before the Court is the United States' Motion  for
Summary Judgment. The United States asks this Court to
determine the amount of compensation due to the Defendants
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
compensation must be determined . . . by a jury when a party
demands one within the time to answer[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P.
71.1(h). In this case, none of the Defendants filed an
answer, made a jury trial, or otherwise appeared in this
action. Therefore, this Court may decide the issue of
compensation. See id.; United States ex. rel Tennessee
Valley Auth. v. An Easement and Right-of-Way Over 0.05 Acre
of Land, More or Less, in Oktibbeha County, Miss., No.
1:17-CV-14-GHD, 2019 WL 267911, *1 (N.D. Miss. Jan 18, 2019)
(relying on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1(h) when
finding that the court may decide the issue of compensation
after no defendant demanded a jury trial).
judgment is appropriate in an eminent domain proceeding
“under Rule 56 when there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact.” United States ex rel. Tennessee
Valley Auth. v. An Easement and Right-of-Way Over 0.03 Acre
of Land, More or Less, in Oktibbeha County, Miss., No.
1:17-CV-152-GHD, 2019 WL 267881, at *1 (N.D. Miss. Jan. 18,
2019) (citing Transwestern Pipeline Co. LLC v. 46.78
Acres of Permanent Easement Located in Maricopa County,
473 Fed.Appx. 778, 779 (9th Cir. 2012)). “The court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
McClendon v. United States, 892 F.3d 775, 781 (5th
Cir. 2018). “The party moving for summary judgment
bears the burden of identifying the portions of the record
that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” James v. Woods, 899 F.3d, 404, 407 (5th
Cir. 2018). “[T]he nonmovant must then point to or
produce specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine
issue of material fact.” Id.
Fifth Amendment protects private property against takings for
public use “without just compensation.” U.S.
Const. amend. V. The term “just compensation”
typically means the fair market value of the property on the
date of the taking. United States v. 564.54 Acres of
Land, 441 U.S. 506, 511-12, 514, 99 S.Ct. 1854, 60
L.Ed.2d 435 (1979). In cases where the United States takes an
easement, just compensation is calculated by “the
difference between the market value of that tract before and
after the taking.” United States v. 8.41 Acres of
Land, 680 F.2d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 1982).
the moving party presents an appraisal by a credentialed
property appraiser and the non-moving party does not contest
it, that moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” United States ex rel. Tennessee Valley Auth.
v. Tree-Removal Rights with Respect to land in McNairy
County, Tenn., No. 15-1008, 2015 WL 5499434, *3 (W.D.
Tenn. Sept. 16, 2015) (granting summary judgment in eminent
domain proceeding on the issue of compensation). Here, the
United States submitted the declaration of Ivan Antal, a
Mississippi certified general property appraiser and
TVA's Manager of Real Property Transactions, to supports
its estimate of $2, 150 for just compensation for the
easement and right-of-way. According to the record, Antal
reviewed two independent appraisal reports which indicated
fair market values of the easement and right of way of $2,
000 and $2, 025, respectively. The United States subsequently
deposited $2, 150 with the registry of this Court as its
valuation of just compensation.
judgment here is appropriate because the Defendants failed to
dispute the United States' valuation of just compensation
and failed to otherwise respond to or appear in this action.
See United States ex rel. Tennessee Valley Auth.,
2019 WL 267881, *3 (granting summary judgment after
defendants “failed to appear or failed to provide
competent evidence to dispute that valuation”);
United States for Use of Tennessee Valley Auth. v. Tree
Removal Rights with Respect to Land in Marshall County,
Miss., No. 3:17-CV-128-DMB, 2018 WL 6072008, *2 (N.D.
Miss. Nov. 19, 2018) (granting summary judgment “in the
absence of any evidence showing the inadequacy of TVA's
valuation method or evidence establishing a different value
for the taken property”). The Fifth Circuit has also
affirmed the use of summary judgment to determine just
compensation in a condemnation proceeding. See Bibb
County. v. United States, 249 F.2d 228, 228, 232 (5th
Cir. 1957). For these reasons, the Court finds that the
United States carried its initial burden in demonstration
that $2, 150 is fair and just compensation for the easement
the five Defendants contested the taking, the United
States' valuation of just compensation, or otherwise
responded to or appeared in this action. Because the
Defendants failed to provide any evidence to dispute the
taking or the United States' valuation of just
compensation, and failed to demand a jury trial, the
Defendants failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that
a genuine issue of material fact exists. See United
States ex rel. Tennessee Valley Auth., 2019 WL 267881,
*3 (finding defendants failed to meet summary judgment burden
because they failed to appear or provide competent evidence
to dispute valuation); United States for Use of Tennessee
Valley Auth., 2018 6072008, *2 (finding defendant failed
to meet summary judgment burden “in the absence of any
evidence showing the inadequacy of TVA's valuation method
or evidence establishing a different value for the taken
property”). The Court finds that, based upon the United
States' undisputed evidence, $2, 150 is a fair and just
compensation for the easement and right-of-way sought.