Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

NDA Farms, L.L.C. v. City of Ames

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

NDA FARMS, L.L.C. and CONNIE J. VEASMAN, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
CITY OF AMES, IOWA THROUGH THE AMES MUNICIPAL ELECTRIC SYSTEM, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott, Judge.

         The City of Ames appeals a partial condemnation award compensating property owners for a thirty-three-foot-wide easement across their properties.

          Alexander M. Johnson and Philip E. Stoffregen of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross, Baskerville & Schoenebaum, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Kimberly S. Bartosh of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

          Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         The City of Ames appeals a partial condemnation award compensating property owners for a thirty-three-foot-wide easement it obtained for the purpose of installing electric transmission lines. The City challenges several of the trial court's evidentiary rulings and the court's failure to instruct the jury on speculative damages. The City also argues the evidence does not support the jury's damage award.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In order to meet the demands of its residents, the City of Ames imports electrical power from a substation near Ankeny. The City applied for and received eminent domain power from the Iowa Utilities Board in order to run power lines from that substation to Ames. To this end, it sought a permanent thirty-three-foot-wide easement to run along Northeast 29th Street across the three contiguous properties at issue in this appeal: Parcel 2, owned by NDA Farms; Parcel 2A owned by Veasman; and Parcel 3, owned by NDA Farms.

         The City offered NDA Farms $32, 100 to compensate it for the easement across Parcels 2 and 3 and offered Veasman $12, 600 to compensate her for the easement across Parcel 2A. The offers were based on a valuation of the land prepared by Dale Ahlsten of ProSource Technologies, LLC. NDA Farms and Veasman rejected the offers.

         The City initiated a condemnation action, seeking the appointment of a compensation commission to assess the amount of damages NDA Farms and Veasman incurred as a result of the easement. The commission convened on January 9, 2014. The City presented the valuation prepared by ProSource Technologies, LLC to the commission. The commission awarded $10, 700 in damages for the easement over Parcels 2 and 3 to NDA Farms, $4200 in damages for the easement over Parcel 2A to Veasman, and costs of $1605.17.

         NDA Farms and Veasman appealed the condemnation award to the district court, alleging they were entitled to no less than $300, 000 in damages. Following a trial, a jury awarded a total of $290, 000 in damages to NDA Farms and Veasman. The trial court entered judgment in favor of NDA Farms and Veasman in the amount of $290, 000, and awarded attorney fees and costs. After its post-trial motions were denied, the City filed this appeal.

         II. Evidentiary Rulings.

         The City challenges several of the trial court's evidentiary rulings. We review these rulings for an abuse of discretion. See Hall v. Jennie Edmundson Mem'l Hosp., 812 N.W.2d 681, 685 (Iowa 2012). An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's ruling is based on unreasonable or untenable grounds. See Giza v. BNSF Ry. Co., 843 N.W.2d 713, 718 (Iowa 2014). Grounds for a ruling are untenable when they are based on an erroneous application of law. See id. We only reverse those evidentiary rulings that prejudice the complaining party. See Whitley v. C.R. Pharmacy Serv., Inc., 816 N.W.2d 378, 385 (Iowa 2012).

         A. Evidence concerning the valuation used at the compensation commission hearing.

         Before trial, the parties agreed any evidence regarding the compensation commission's award was irrelevant and should be excluded from trial. However, the parties disagreed regarding the admissibility of the valuation performed by Dale Ahlsten of ProSource Technologies, LLC, and the City moved to exclude such evidence. The court ruled that, although it would exclude any reference to the compensation commission's award, the plaintiffs could use Ahlsten's valuation and valuation method to impeach Brian Linnemeyer, a certified real estate appraiser the City designated as its expert witness.

         During his cross-examination, Linnmeyer explained that he is self-employed and his income depends on having clients who are willing to pay for his services. He testified that less than five percent of his work comes from private individuals whose property is being taken by a government entity and approximately one half of his total work is reviewing appraisals conducted by others on behalf of government entities taking or acquiring private land. Linnemeyer testified that it is "somewhat rare" for him to disagree with a prior appraisal. The following exchange then occurred:

Q. You are aware that there was a prior valuation on the Veasmans' property performed through the City of Ames by Dale Ahlsten with ProSource; correct?
[The City's attorney]: Your Honor, I'm going to object at this time; relevance and lack of foundation and hearsay.
The Court: It's overruled. Go ahead.
Q. You were provided that valuation prior to conducting your appraisal of the Veasmans' property in this matter, weren't you?
A. Yes. I believe it came up during the commission hearing, I believe, yes.
Q. You're aware that Dale Ahlsten, an individual from ProSource who conducted this prior valuation, is not a licensed appraiser; correct?
A. I am not aware of that, but I did hear it-I heard the valuation come up during the commission hearing. I guess I'm not aware of that.
Q. Well, you attended the hearing you said?
A. Yes.

         The parties then held a discussion with the court outside of the jury's presence concerning the admissibility of the testimony regarding Ahlsten's valuation. After hearing counsels' arguments, the court stated:

So after listening to the testimony, . . . the Ahlsten valuation can be used to impeach this witness based on the fact that he reviewed it prior to making his value of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.