Texas Supreme Court: Billboards are Realty Deserving Just Compensation in Eminent Domain

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The Texas Supreme Court recently issued a decision in an eminent domain case in which the Owners’ Counsel of America appeared as amicus curiae affirming that billboard owners are entitled to just compensation when billboard structures are condemned by the government.



The Just Compensation Clause of the federal and Texas constitutions requires payment of the "full and perfect equivalent" of the property taken.

In a unanimous opinion issued last month, the Texas Supreme Court held that Clear Channel Outdoor should be compensated for billboards destroyed or taken when the state acquired the underlying land using its power of eminent domain to widen Katy Freeway near downtown Houston. The Owners’ Counsel of America (OCA) together with the National Federation of Independent Business(NFIB) Small Business Legal Center filed an amici curiae brief in support of Clear Channel’s right to just compensation.

In Texas v. Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc., Case No. 13-0053 (decided April 24, 2015), the Court concluded that billboards are fixtures which should be valued as part of the land and must be paid for by the party condemning the land. (See Slip Op. at 9.) Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Hecht concluded, “Clear Channel is therefore due compensation for the sign structures.” (Slip. Op. at 12.)

“The State argued that its condemnation did not include Clear Channel’s billboards because the State considered the structures to be removable personal property,” explained Robert H. Thomas, the Hawaii member of OCA. “On this issue, the Court agreed with OCA’s brief, which argued that Clear Channel’s billboards were fixtures intended to be a permanent part of the underlying land. In fact, as the Court pointed out, the billboards had to be dismantled, or effectively destroyed, in order to be removed from the property.” Thomas, a Director with Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert in Honolulu, worked with NFIB attorney Luke Wake to drafting the amici brief.

The Court approved valuing the land taken at its highest and best use – as outdoor advertising – concluding that the State “should have taken into account the facts that the necessary permits were in place and that the site was especially suited to that use.” However, the Court noted “[w]e are not concerned here with a business that could not possibly be conducted at all at another site.” (Slip. Op. at 17.)

The Court concluded that Clear Channel was entitled to compensation, but because the value of the billboards had been excluded from a settlement reached between the State, Clear Channel, and land owner, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and sent the case back to the trial court.

In response to the ruling, Cathy Newman, OCA Executive Director, made the following statement. “The Just Compensation Clause of the federal and Texas constitutions requires payment of the ‘full and perfect equivalent’ of the property taken. We are satisfied with the Court’s conclusion that Clear Channel deserves to be compensated for the billboards taken in this eminent domain proceeding.”


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.

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Catherine Newman
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Owners' Counsel of America
since: 08/2011
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