Beach couple gets new trial in eminent domain case

New trial in eminent domain case

VIRGINIA BEACH -- A couple will get a new trial as they fight the Virginia Department of Transportation over money paid for their land.

A few years ago, VDOT took part of Jim and Janet Ramsey's property along London Bridge and Fair Lady roads to make ramps leading on and off Interstate 264.

Janet says the property has been in her family for nearly a century.

"I had a pecan tree and some grape vines, you know, a few trees like that," Ramsey said. "They took all those down cleared the land and built the road."

Based on the state's initial appraisal, VDOT put nearly $250,000 in an escrow account for the land.

"I think they're bullies," Jim said. "They're out of control."

Without any other option, the couple says they reluctantly accepted the money.

"It's almost like the Godfather," said Jeremy Hopkins, the Ramseys' attorney. "They [VDOT] gave the owner an offer he or she can't refuse."

But later VDOT wanted $160,000 of that amount back, claiming the land seized through eminent domain was worth just $90,000.

The Ramseys said they no longer had the money after investing it all.

"I mean, it was like stabbing you, like saying you know, you took it wrongly, we didn't take it wrongly," said Janet. "You all said this is what we're giving you and you want it back?"

VDOT took the Ramseys to court, where they argued the entirety of their property was worth about half of its initial value of $500,000.

The state successfully blocked the Ramseys' attorney from submitting the initial appraisal into evidence.

Without hearing the state's first appraisal, a jury ruled the couple was only entitled to be compensated for $234,032. A judge ordered the Ramsey's repay the difference of nearly $15,000.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled juries should be able to learn if VDOT lowers the appraisal.

The Ramseys hope the issue will be settled outside of court, but believe a retrial in a lower court is likely.

A spokeswoman for VDOT said the agency and the Commissioner are reviewing the court's ruling to determine how to proceed.


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