An Analysis of Highway Condemnation Cases Under the Provisions of Senate Bill 724: Comparisons of Jury and Commission Awards

Report No: 94-IR2

Published in 1994

About the report:

By law, the Virginia Department of Transportation may condemn property needed for road improvements, if an acceptable purchase price cannot be negotiated
with the property owner. Currently, commissioners nominated by the Commonwealth and the property owner determine just compensation to the landowner in cases that go to trial. Right of way costs have escalated greatly in Virginia, and it is a fairly commonly held belief among many who are involved in the trials that the current commissioner selection procedure tends to produce awards that are unfavorable to the Commonwealth. With the passage of Senate Bill 724 (SB 724), the 1991 General Assembly called for a 30-month "experiment" wherein juries rather than litigant-nominated commissioners would be used to decide highway condemnation cases.

In the aggregate, the data suggest that jury awards may be lower than awards under the current procedures. Since the number of jury cases is very small, however, and the interviews suggest that the commissioner procedure may be used somewhat differently in Northern Virginia than elsewhere, the authors recommend a two-year extension of the expiration date of SB 724, to July 1, 1996. An extension would enable the authors to analyze additional cases in both Northern Virginia and Chesterfield County; the latter could provide a more typical venue in which to compare awards under the two procedures.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Amy A. O'Leary, Ph.D., Michael A. Perfater

Last updated: December 23, 2023

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