Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain is defined as when a governmental entity such as the United States, the State of California or a county or city government, school district, hospital district or other public agency, has the power to purchase privately-owned real estate for public use, with or without the property owner’s permission. 

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that "private property [may not] be taken for public use without just compensation." The Fourteenth Amendment added the requirement of just compensation to state and local government takings. 

Berliner Cohen represents clients in all aspects of land use entitlement work and is committed to developing practical and cost-effective solutions for our clients when faced with an eminent domain lawsuit.

How Do You Know an Eminent Domain Lawsuit May Be Coming?
On many occasions, your first indication that a governmental entity is interested in your property comes by way of a letter or notice describing the project and informing you that you will be contacted in the near future.  That notice is often followed by contact from a “right of way agent” or another public entity representative who wants to talk to you about how much is going to be paid for the land they want to take. The public entity’s ultimate goal is to make a deal with you on the amount of money to be paid for your property.

It is advisable to enlist the help of an attorney instead of attempting to make the deal yourself.  You may be at a distinct disadvantage in that you may be entitled to additional dollars beyond just the fair market value for the land being taken or compensation for other reasons that you are not aware of.  Without competent legal advice you may be leaving dollars on the table that you are entitled to.

Representative Cases

  • People (CalTrans) v. Liberty Service Corp., Santa Clara County Superior Court
    Trial Counsel for landowner in eminent domain action on the valuation of 60 acres of property for the widening of Route 237; landowner's valuation of the property was $12 million; State's was less than $4 million; result after three-week jury trial: $10.15 million verdict plus attorneys' fees, costs, and interest
  • Eminent Domain Cases In Merced County
    Counsel for a farmer with an eminent domain matter relating to the construction of a highway interchange by the Transportation Department for the State of California (CALTRANS); able to negotiate a multi-million dollar settlement that was double the initial offer.  On another CALTRANS project where less than one acre of ground was being taken the matter was settled for triple the initial offer made to the client.
  • Contra Costa Water District v. Vaquero Farms, Inc.
    ContraCosta CountySuperior Court. Lead trial counsel for Water District in eminent domain action to acquire 3,400 acres of land for Los Vaqueros Reservoir Project; District's valuation of the property was $8 million, landowner's was $57 million; after three-month-long jury trial, verdict was $14.4 million, which was less than the District's final offer to the landowner

For more information, please contact Andrew Faber at andrew.faber@berliner.com  or Jeffrey Kaufman at jeffrey.kaufman@berliner.com.