In order to get new or improved roads and highways in Florida (such as new routes or widening existing routes), individuals and businesses frequently have to surrender private property to the government to allow for the improvements. Under Florida law, state, county and local governments (and other entities with the power)("the government") use a proceeding known as "eminent domain" to take property. In order to take the property, the government must provide full compensation to the owners of the property. Full compensation means that the owners are made whole, or are placed in the same position after the taking as the owners were before the taking to the extent possible or practicable. Various different methods for valuing property exist and business losses/damages may be recovered in certain circumstances. Most of the time, before formal "eminent domain" proceedings are initiated, the government is required to make a pre-suit offer that represents "full" compensation. Oftentimes, however, the pre-suit offer does not provide owners with the full value under the circumstances.
In order to get full value for the property (and business losses/damages, where applicable), owners of private property should consult with an attorney to assist with the pre-suit negotiation process and with the formal proceedings that frequently become necessary. Because owners are forced to surrender their property through no fault of their own, it is important to note that Florida law provides that full compensation includes payment of the owners' reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Most of the time, the government is required to pay the attorney's fees over and above the government's first written offer for taking the property and damages. For example, if owners obtain a later offer or judgment above the government's first written offer for the taking, the attorney fees are based on a percentage of the increase (based on a statutory schedule). Moreover, irrespective of whether the owner can negotiate or obtain an increase above the first written offer, the government is usually required to pay the reasonable and necessary costs incurred in the formal proceeding, such as appraisal costs. (Note: The payment of attorney's fees and costs may be impacted by the government's service of an "offer of judgment" during a formal proceeding. This procedure should be discussed with your attorney).
If you are an owner of private property in Florida and your property is or may be subject to a taking by the government for a road or highway construction project (common areas in the Tampa Bay area currently include I-275, I-75 and SR 50), please contact Joel Ewusiak of Ewusiak Law, P.A. for assistance. For more information on road future projects in Tampa Bay and whether your property may be impacted, please visit the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) website here. Future projects under design include:
- North of CR 54 to North of SR 52 (North of CR 54 to North of SR 52 (258736-2))
- North of SR 52 to the Pasco / Hernando County Line (North of SR 52 to the Pasco / Hernando County Line (411014-2))
- Pasco County / Hernando County Line to South of SR 50 (Pasco / Hernando County Line to South of SR 50 (411011-3))
- South of SR 50 to Sumter/Hernando County Line (South of SR 50 to North of SR 50 (411011-4); North of SR 50 to Sumter/Hernando County Line (411012-2))