UDOT v. LEJ Investments LLC

December 7, 2018

Utah Court of Appeals

November 8, 2018

2018 UT App 213 (Click for text of opinion)

The Utah Court of Appeals declined to overturn a trial court’s determination of value in a condemnation action in this case.

The Utah Department of Transportation (“UDOT”) filed an action to condemn a portion of property owned by multiple parties (collectively, “LEJ”).  After hearing evidence, the trial court did not adopt the appraisal valuations presented by either party and constructed its own valuation of the property from the expert opinions.  After the entry of final judgment, UDOT moved for a new trial because LEJ had not supplemented its discovery responses with certain development proposals for some of its property.  After LEJ provided the additional information, the court added an additional day of trial and declined to amend its prior ruling after that time.  UDOT appealed.

On appeal, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court after addressing the four errors claimed by UDOT.  First, the court held that the trial court did not misapply the project influence rule because it appropriately relied on evidence presented at trial that development in the area would have occurred anyway even without the Mountain View Corridor. Second, the appeals court declined to disturb the trial court’s finding of severance damages between the two sides’ respective appraisals under the doctrine of invited error because UDOT invited the error it alleges the trial court made.  Third, the appeals court rejected UDOT’s argument that the trial court should have adopted UDOT’s expert’s amount when it declined to adopt LEJ’s expert’s amount because as trier of fact, the trial court could weigh the evidence and adopt or reject any part of an expert witness’s testimony and conclude a value anywhere in the range of values proffered by an expert.  The court noted that even if it were error for the trial court to make a ruling in the range of values given, it would reject UDOT’s claim under the invited error doctrine.  Fourth, the appeals court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying UDOT’s motion for additional discovery based on LEJ’s failure to supplement certain discovery responses because the record contained a reasonable basis for the trial court’s decision.