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Pinkham v. Department of Transportation

Supreme Court of Maine

May 19, 2016

TERRENCE E. PINKHAM
v.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

          Submitted On Briefs: October 21, 2015

          Argued: April 6, 2016

         Reporter of Decisions Hancock County Superior Court docket number RE-2012-54

         On the briefs:

          Jeffrey T. Edwards, Esq., Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, LLP, Portland, for appellant Terrence E. Pinkham

          Rebecca H. Farnum, Esq., and Jason P. Donovan, Esq., Thompson & Bowie, LLP, Portland, for appellee Maine Department of Transportation

          Jonathan Arey, Esq., Maine Turnpike Authority, Portland, for amicus curiae Maine Turnpike Authority

          Sigmund D. Schutz, Esq., Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, LLP, Portland, for amici curiae Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and New England First Amendment Coalition

          Richard L. O'Meara, Esq., Murray Plumb & Murray, Portland, Lauri Boxer-Macomber, Esq., Kelly, Remmel & Zimmerman, Portland, and Ben D. Kappelman, Esq., Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Maine Trial Lawyers Association

          Zachary L. Heiden, Esq., American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation, Portland, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation

         At oral argument:

          Jeffrey T. Edwards, Esq., for appellant Terrence E. Pinkham

          Jason P. Donovan, Esq., for appellee Maine Department of Transportation

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] Terrence E. Pinkham appeals from a judgment entered by the Superior Court (Hancock County, R. Murray, J.) after a jury trial, awarding him $41, 500 as just compensation for the Maine Department of Transportation's (the MDOT) taking of a portion of his property by eminent domain for a road improvement project.[1] Pinkham contends that the court erred by ruling that the MDOT was not required to provide in discovery those portions of its appraiser's report appraising other properties taken for the project pursuant to 23 M.R.S. § 63 (2015). We agree, and vacate the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Pinkham, as the prevailing party, the jury rationally could have found the following facts. See Caruso v. Jackson Lab., 2014 ME 101, ¶ 2, 98 A.3d 221. By notice provided in May of 2009, and amended in July of 2010, the MDOT informed Pinkham that it was taking by eminent domain a portion of Pinkham's property abutting Route 1A in Ellsworth in order to widen the road. See 23 M.R.S. § 153-B (2015). The taking included a seventeen-foot-wide strip of land running alongside the highway, together with associated drainage easements.

         [¶3] The MDOT had the property appraised by Michael Moniz, a certified real estate appraiser. See 23 M.R.S. § 153-B(2). The MDOT provided Pinkham with a copy of those portions of Moniz's appraisal report that applied to Pinkham's property, and then made Pinkham an offer of "just compensation" for the taking as required by 23 M.R.S. § 155 (2015). After Pinkham rejected the offer, the matter was referred to the State Claims Commission. See 23 M.R.S. §§ 155, 156 (2015). Ultimately, the MDOT paid Pinkham a total of $13, 609 for the taking.

         [¶4] In December of 2012, Pinkham challenged the Commission's decision by filing a complaint in the Superior Court for de novo review of the matter.[2] See 23 M.R.S. § 157 (2015). Soon after, Pinkham requested that the MDOT produce copies of Moniz's appraisals of all of the properties acquired as part of the widening project. The MDOT objected on the ground that "the information concerning the negotiations for and appraisals of property acquired" for the widening project was confidential pursuant to 23 M.R.S. § 63. After a hearing, the court (A. Murray, J.) ordered that the MDOT was "protected from producing any assessments, appraisals, [and] settlement/transaction documents relating to the project in question" pursuant to section 63 because the widening project had not yet been completed.

         [¶5] The court conducted a jury trial on November 5 to 7, 2014. Pinkham testified that he suffered a loss in value to his property of $1, 375, 000 as a result of the taking. Moniz was designated as the MDOT's expert witness to testify about "the value of the property rights acquired from [Pinkham]"; over Pinkham's objection, Moniz testified that Pinkham's property lost $13, 000 in value as a result of the taking. The parties stipulated, and the jury was informed, that the MDOT had previously paid Pinkham $13, 600. The jury returned a unanimous verdict awarding Pinkham $41, 500 as just compensation for the taking. The ...


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