Mississippi Jury Awards Bay Front Restaurant Owners $644,000 in Inverse Condemnation Trial

This week a jury found that the State of Mississippi took private property without paying just compensation to a family represented by Hernando eminent domain attorney and Mississippi Owners' Counsel of America member, Paul R. Scott.

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The view from the back of Dan B's busy restaurant overlooking the deck and Bay St. Louis before Hurricane Katrina.

The view from the back of Dan B's busy restaurant overlooking the deck and Bay St. Louis before Hurricane Katrina.

The lesson here is ‘know your property rights’ and be ready to stand up and fight for them. Owning property is what sets America apart from much of the rest of the world and it is a core component of our freedom.

Hernando, Mississippi (PRWEB) August 20, 2014

On Monday, a jury in Hancock County, Mississippi, returned a verdict in favor of brothers Kenneth, Ray and Audie Murphy and against the State of Mississippi in the amount of $644,000.00 for the taking of their bay front property by inverse condemnation. The property is the former site of Dan B’s Restaurant and Bar on Beach Boulevard in downtown Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the popular beach front restaurant owned by the Murphy family August 29, 2005. The restaurant featured a large deck overlooking the Bay of St. Louis.

"My clients are very pleased with the jury verdict," said attorney Paul R. Scott of Smith, Phillips, Mitchell, Scott & Nowak, LLP with offices in Batesville and Hernando, Mississippi. "This lawsuit was not about the harbor redevelopment project. It was about the government taking private property without paying just compensation."

The trial, which began on Tuesday, August 12, focused on two core issues: whether the Murphy family owned the entire waterfront property and how much the family should be compensated for it. The Murphys contended that the state and City took their property without compensation when construction of the municipal harbor began in 2012. The Murphys maintained that their Beach Boulevard property line extended to the water and asked the jury to award $800,000 for the value of the property seized by the government.

Experts for the property owners testified at trial that historical maps and deeds demonstrate that the Murphys owned more than 14,000 square feet of property extending from Beach Boulevard to the water's edge. Lawyers for the government argued that state statutes concerning public tidelands excluded much of the land the owners asserted was their private property.

The jury returned its verdict on August 18 finding that the State was liable and should compensate the family $644,000 for the value of the property. Because it leases the property from the state, co-defendant, City of Bay St. Louis, contended it was not responsible for the property seizure or payment of compensation and was found not liable for damages in the case.

"The verdict verifies what we have said throughout the litigation," Scott said. "The Murphy family has owned this property since the '80s. They have used it, maintained it, and paid taxes on it.”

“Neither the State nor City showed any interest it this property prior to Hurricane Katrina,” Scott continued. “In fact, the State never made any offer to compensate the Murphys for the loss of their property."

After Katrina, a new public boat harbor was included as part of a redevelopment plan for the downtown area by the City of Bay St. Louis and the State of Mississippi. An access ramp and parking facilities for the new harbor were planned on property owned by the Murphys and several other downtown property owners. The State of Mississippi, however, claimed the land was state owned public tidelands.

Property owner, Ken Murphy expressed sincere gratitude for the legal team representing himself and his family. “We must thank our lawyers, Paul Scott and Robert Quimby,” Murphy said. “Had it not been for Paul and Robert our land would have been taken and we would have gotten nothing. A mere ‘thank you’ does not truly express our gratitude for their belief, commitment and hard work to our struggle.”

“The lesson here is ‘know your property rights’ and be ready to stand up and fight for them. Owning property is what sets America apart from much of the rest of the world and it is a core component of our freedom,” concluded Murphy.

The case is Murphy v. State of Mississippi, et. al., Cause No. 12-0453 in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi.

ABOUT SMITH, PHILLIPS, MITCHELL, SCOTT & NOWAK, LLP:

Smith, Phillips, Mitchell, Scott & Nowak, LLP is a nationally recognized, full service civil law firm representing individuals, businesses and governmental entities for over 40 years. Smith Phillips handles a full range of legal services including business and individual litigation, nationwide class actions, insurance litigation, eminent domain and land use litigation, serious personal injury litigation (Plaintiffs and Defendants), and other civil litigation in state and federal courts throughout the country. To learn more, visit http://www.smithphillips.com.

ABOUT OWNERS' COUNSEL OF AMERICA:

The Owners’ Counsel of America is a nationwide network of experienced eminent domain attorneys dedicated to protecting the rights of private property owners large and small, locally and nationally, and to advancing the cause of property rights. The lawyers affiliated with OCA are in private practice in nearly every state and represent private landowners against federal, state, and local governments, utilities, transportation and redevelopment authorities and other entities that may be armed with eminent domain power. For more information or to locate a condemnation lawyer in your state, please visit http://www.ownerscounsel.com.