District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Todd M.
Shaughnessy No. 110902201
D. Reyes, Barbara E. Ochoa, William H. Christensen, David M.
Quealy, and Brent A. Burnett, Attorneys for Appellant
Jonathan O. Hafen, Justin P. Matkin, and Jeffery A. Balls,
Attorneys for Appellees
David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Gregory K. Orme and Michele M. Christiansen Forster
In this condemnation action, the Utah Department of
Transportation (UDOT) attempted to convince the trial court
that a piece of property was nearly worthless dirt. The trial
court thought more of the property, and UDOT appeals. We
UDOT filed a condemnation action to acquire a strip of land
that crossed property owned by LEJ Investments LLC, Robert
Bowman Consulting LLC, Craig Jensen, Richard Jensen, Carol
Bowman, and Robert Bowman (collectively, LEJ). UDOT sought to
obtain the land to construct a new freeway, the Mountain View
Corridor (the MVC), on the west side of Salt Lake County.
When the parties could not agree on the fair market value of
the property, UDOT served LEJ with a complaint, establishing
the date on which the trial court was to base its
determinations of fair market value and severance damages.
At trial, UDOT and LEJ presented differing appraisal values
for the property. UDOT depicted the property as "a
353-acre vacant dry farm" with "no streets
accessing the interior of the property" and with
"antelope still roam[ing] the area." LEJ depicted
the property as a budding real-estate investment with
immediate potential for mixed-use development. During trial,
the mayor of West Jordan City (the City) testified that the
mixed-use development plans were consistent with the
City's plans for the area, even without the MVC. A real
estate developer also testified that there was sufficient
demand as of the valuation date to develop the LEJ property
for mixed use, even in the absence of the MVC.
The trial court reviewed appraisals from each party and
ultimately rejected both valuations. The court concluded,
"Neither side offered a backup or alternative valuation
for the court to look to for guidance, opting instead to go
for broke with the value conclusions each had in hand. Under
these circumstances, the court has no choice but to construct
its own before-condition valuation, as best it can under the
circumstances, and with all the limitations presented."
The court ultimately awarded LEJ approximately $13 million in
just compensation for the property.
After the trial court entered a final judgment, UDOT learned
that LEJ had not supplemented its discovery responses prior
to trial with information regarding actual development
proposals for portions of the LEJ property. UDOT moved for a
new trial, asking the court to compel production of documents
and reopen discovery. The trial court granted the motion in
part, requiring LEJ to supplement its discovery responses
with unproduced documents and scheduling an additional day of
trial. The trial court denied UDOT's request to conduct
additional discovery and quashed the subpoenas UDOT's
counsel had issued to consultants whom LEJ engaged in an
effort to gain municipal development approvals during the
time leading up to trial. After receiving additional evidence
during the added day of trial, the trial court declined to
amend its prior ruling.
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
UDOT raises various challenges to the trial court's final
order. Where UDOT challenges the court's application of
the law, we review such conclusions for correctness. See
AmericanWest Bank v. Kellin, 2015 UT App 300, ¶ 11,
364 P.3d 1055. Where UDOT's arguments challenge the
court's factual findings, we review for clear error.
Id. Finally, we review the court's decision to
partially reopen trial and discovery for an abuse of
discretion. See Sunridge Dev. Corp. v. RB & G
Eng'g, Inc., 2013 UT App 146, ¶ 3, 305 P.3d
171; Clissold v. Clissold, 519 P.2d 241, 242 (Utah
1974), overruled on other grounds by St. Pierre v.
Edmonds, 645 P.2d 615 (Utah 1982).
UDOT contends that the trial court erred in four ways. First,
UDOT argues that the trial court misapplied the
project-influence rule by relying on developments and
comparable properties that existed after the MVC project
began. Second, UDOT argues that the trial court's
conclusions regarding the after-condemnation value of the
property and severance damages were clearly erroneous,
legally incorrect, and internally inconsistent. Third, UDOT
argues that the trial court did not hold LEJ to the
appropriate burden of proof when it rejected LEJ's
expert's appraisal but proceeded to complete a fair
market evaluation. Fourth, UDOT argues that ...