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|Despite court victories, Wade brothers yet to be paid|
Although brothers Jimmy and David Wade of Wildsville have won another court victory in their fight with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), they have yet to see the money the courts say they are due.
In 2007, a Concordia Parish petit jury awarded the Wades $621,584.75 for the expropriation of their property by the state for construction of an approach to the new Black River Bridge at Jonesville along Hwy. 84.
The Wades, who operated D&J Sales before the state took the property about three years ago, refused an offer by DOTD totaling $176,000 for the land and their building. The two men operated a farm store and a cattle company.
When the parish jury ruled for the Wades, DOTD appealed. Judge Kathy Johnson presided over the case in Concordia.
Although the Third Circuit Court of Appeal has recently affirmed and amended the Concordia jury's decision, the Wades are unsure if the state will continue to delay the payment they are due.
"My opinion is that the state will further delay this in court," said Jimmy Wade. He said the state's actions appear "to be just absolute vengeance."
He said "it has taken an economic and emotional toll on our families. The state took our business away from us and our income, and now they won't pay us what a parish jury says we are due. Every day they drag this thing out is a hardship on us. I've never been through anything like this in my life."
The recent Third Circuit ruling was issued by a panel of three. Judges Jimmie C. Peters and Bill Howard Ezell affirmed and amended the Concordia jury's verdict and reversed part of the verdict. Judge Elizabeth A. Pickett dissented.
According to the Third Circuit, the Wades "operated D & J Sales...from 1985 until 2005...The property on which D & J Sales operated was an approximately eight-acre tract of land bounded by U.S. Highway 84 on the North.
"Beginning in 1993, DOTD began making public the plans to improve Highway 84. It was apparent from the beginning of the public discussions that DOTD would build a new bridge over the Black River near Wildsville and that the property on which D & J Sales operated would be expropriated...."
When the state failed to pay the Wades what they believed to be a fair price based on the state's own appraisements, Jimmy Wade said the brothers decided to filed a lawsuit.
The Third Circuit wrote that following "a trial held on January 18 and 19, 2007...the jury found that the amount of compensation due for the taking of the property was $161,694; $25,352 for the land and $136,442 for improvements thereon. The jury found that the Wades were owed severance damages to their remaining property in the amount of $14,516. Thus, the total award of just compensation for the land taken was $176,310. Further, the jury found that the Wades proved by a preponderance of the evidence that they were entitled to the replacement costs for their improvements. The jury awarded $556,223.75 to the Wades as the replacement cost of the buildings, less depreciation.
"The jury also awarded $55,361.00 as the fair market value of land on which to build the new buildings. Following the trial, the court ordered counsel for the Wades to prepare a judgment. DOTD objected to the judgment submitted, on the grounds that it was required to pay the full amount of both the fair market value of the property taken and the replacement cost of the property. DOTD argued that should the Wades receive the higher amount of $621,584.75 for the replacement cost, a credit of $176,310.00 must be given for that which had previously been paid. Following a hearing, the court found that the Wades should receive $621,584.75, in addition to the amount previously paid by the State. The trial court issued a judgment on June 21, 2007, awarding the Wades $621,584.75."
The appeals court reversed "the award of $55,361 for replacement costs of the land and $136,442 for the market value of the improvements." The panel affirmed "the jury's decision awarding the Wades $25,352 for the taking of their land, $14,516 for severance damages, and $566,223.75 for the replacement costs of the improvements, for a total award of $606,091.75. This amount is reduced to $429,781.75 after allowing a credit for $176,310 already paid to the Wades by DOTD. Costs of this appeal, $2,280, are to be split between the parties."
In her dissent, Pickett noted: "I would reverse the award of replacement costs for the property taken, and limit the Wades' recovery to the fair market value of the land and improvements expropriated by the state.
"I would find that the Wades were fully compensated under law for the expropriation of their land when DOTD paid them for the fair market value of the land and improvements and severance damages as awarded by the jury in response to interrogatories. I would, therefore, reverse the judgment of the trial court awarding the Wades the replacement costs of land and improvements."
Julie Mobley Lafargue of Shreveport is the attorney for DOTD and could not be reached for comment.
The Wades are represented by the law firm of Sheets, Babin & Associates of Gonzales.
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