Iowa Court of Appeals Affirms Jury Verdict Compensating Property Owners following an Eminent Domain Proceeding Instituted by the City of Ames


The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a Polk County Iowa jury verdict compensating property owners for damages sustained as a result of a partial taking of their land by the City of Ames through the process of eminent domain. The jury verdict was obtained following a three day trial in the Iowa District Court for Polk County.  NDA Farms, L.L.C. and Connie J. Veasman v. City of Ames Through the Ames Municipal Electric System, No. 16-0028 (Iowa Ct. App. March 8, 2017). 

The City of Ames sought a permanent thirty-three-foot-wide easement running across property owned by NDA farms and Veasman. The City initiated a condemnation action to assess damages incurred as a result of the taking of the easement. NDA Farms and Veasman appealed the condemnation award to the district court and after a jury trial, were awarded damages, attorney fees, and costs.  The City of Ames appealed the jury verdict seeking to have the same overturned. 

The appellate court reviewed several of the City’s challenges of the trial court’s evidentiary rulings including the district court’s decision to allow the City’s expert witness to be questioned during cross-examination regarding a prior valuation obtained by the City of Ames.  

The City also appealed the trial court’s decision to refuse to submit to the jury an instruction drafted by the City that was duplicative of model instructions already provided. 

In addition, the City appealed the district court’s refusal to order a new trial on the basis the jury’s verdict was not so excessive as to shock the conscience and/or to have been the result of passion or prejudice.  

The appellate court found the trial court acted within its discretion when making these rulings and affirmed the jury verdict.

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