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April 15, 2010

Balch & Bingham Lawyers Bill Smith and Brad Reeves Obtain Significant Trial Victory

Balch & Bingham lawyers Bill Smith and Brad Reeves Obtain Significant Appellate Victory

Balch & Bingham lawyers Bill Smith and Brad Reeves obtained a significant appellate victory on April 15th involving the eminent domain of utility easements.  Balch was involved in this case through its representation of several major natural gas transmission pipeline companies. 
A large trial verdict was returned against a pipeline in an action to condemn pipeline easements through eminent domain.  The key evidence at trial was the expert testimony of a real estate appraiser who claimed that the remaining property would lose significant value because of a "stigma" associated with utility easements.  His testimony was based solely on his "personal experience" and was not supported by any comparable sales or other data.  Despite this lack of data, and an objection by the pipeline under the Daubert standard, the trial judge allowed the expert to testify.  The verdict was affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals, creating a dangerous precedent for our clients and other utilities.
During the appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Bill and Brad filed amicus briefs on behalf of our clients and several other utility companies.  The Supreme Court reversed both the trial court and the court of appeals, and held that the appraiser's testimony did not meet the standards of Daubert or Miss. R. Evid. 702.  In its written opinion, the Mississippi Supreme Court adopted the position and the language used in our brief.  This decision sets a very good precedent for all utility companies operating in Mississippi. 
Click here to view the Opinion

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