Tippah County couple awarded $155,000 in eminent domain case

By Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel

RIPLEY – On Friday, June 22, a jury in the Tippah County Special Court of Eminent Domain ordered the Mississippi Department of Transportation to pay $155,000 in damages to Barrett and Bobbie Chapman for 5.7 acres of property taken from a local subdivision.

The two-day trial at the Tippah County Courthouse was one of several eminent domain cases involving property being taken by the Department of Transportation to build the Highway 15 bypass east of Ripley. There are other eminent domain trials scheduled later this year.

According to court documents, the case involved the taking of 5.7 acres off the west side of the Beverly Hills Subdivision on Cotton Gin Road in Ripley. The Mississippi Transportation Commission took all or part of eight house lots along Chapman Drive which is one of the streets in the subdivision. The streets in the subdivision are owned and maintained by the City of Ripley.

The jury was required to follow the “before and after” rule to award the Chapmans just compensation for the loss of their property. The rule required the jury to determine the value of the entire subdivision before the property was taken by the state and the value after 5.7 acres was removed. The just compensation is the difference.

“The ‘before and after’ rule is designed to give the landowners not only the value of the property that they are losing, but also the loss in value to the remainder of the land,” said Attorney Sean Akins who represented the Chapmans.

According to court documents, the court-appointed appraisal initially gave the Chapmans $70,000 for their loss. After the eminent domain proceedings began, the State conducted its own appraisal and increased their payment to $80,000.

Before the trial, the Transportation Commission hired their expert appraiser who increased their offer to $121,250, and the jury ultimately awarded the Chapmans $155,000 for their loss.

Eminent domain is the process whereby private property is taken by the government for public use. The Mississippi Constitution requires the State to pay just compensation for the taking of private land through eminent domain. The Mississippi Department of Transportation was represented by Hollaman Raney of Oxford.