The Colorado Supreme Court’s October 18, 2010 decision in Bly v. Story clarifies two issues with respect to condemnation proceedings in Colorado. Bly involved a private party’s condemnation of an easement for a private way of necessity over a neighbor’s driveway. The court, construing C.R.S. § 38-1-102(1), held that a metes and bounds legal description and specification of the particular purpose of the condemnation is not required in a condemnation petition. Applied to the facts, the court found that a “general description,” along with a map that made the location of the proposed easement clear, was sufficient. With respect to the proposed use, the court found that, for a private condemnation, mere recitation of any of the purposes listed in C.R.S. § 38-1-102(3) is sufficient.
Though this suggests that the rules for the sufficiency of condemnation petitions are fairly liberal, in Bly, a metes and bounds description, and a more detailed explanation of the nature of the proposed use of the easement were provided during discovery and/or in trial testimony. Accordingly, while a somewhat vague petition may survive a motion to dismiss, condemnors would probably be well-advised to include more specifics in their petitions, if possible, and such information should definitely be supplied at some point during the course of the proceeding.
Bly also addressed the admissibility of valuation evidence in a condemnation case. The owners of the condemned land sought to introduce evidence of the cost of replacement of the driveway at issue, but the trial court refused to admit the evidence. Even though the relationship between the evidence and the ultimate issue—the value of the easement—was tenuous, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the evidence should have been admitted. However, in the circumstances, the court found that the failure to admit the evidence was harmless error.
What is potentially important for future cases is the court’s clear statement of very liberal rules of admissibility of various forms of valuation evidence in a condemnation trial. Depending on the facts of the case, some evidence may be entitled to more weight than others, but:
The evidentiary rules applicable to a trial for an award of just compensation are expansive, and all evidence relevant to the determination of market value of the condemned property is admissible.
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