Smith & Fawer, LLC, attorneys Randall A. Smith and L. Tiffany Hawkins worked to defend the Rothchild family in the 14th Judicial District Court of Louisiana against the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District. The defense contended that their property was taken in a way that violated Louisiana’s eminent domain laws for just cause and fair market value and were awarded over $8 million to cover additional losses and attorney fees.
With a long history of cases related to public purpose, Louisiana often defers to governmental authorities when it comes to taking property. The legal regulations allow for a vast number of uses for a property, all of which can influence a property’s value. Despite the limited restrictions on taking property, eminent domain law protects owners to put them in as good a financial position as if the property had not been condemned. In addition to fair market value, compensation can include moving costs, business damages, inconvenience, relocation, and any other loss of value.
After an 18-month battle and 4-day Judge trial for a longtime landowner in Lake Charles, we were able to achieve a Final Judgment of almost 4x the deposit, plus interest, attorney’s fees, all costs, and the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District’s agreement to purchase the largely non-economical remainder, resulting in a total of over $8M being paid on top of the $1.5M that was originally deposited.
The taking authority, the Port of Lake Charles (in a joint venture with the state DOT), refused to pay anything additional before trial, but at the conclusion of the trial, the Judge told the Port that they should promptly resume settlement negotiations because “frankly, I find your position ludicrous.” The settlement was concluded in less than 2 weeks.
The Smith & Fawer attorneys received a thoughtful recommendation from our client, Francis E. Rothchild, Jr., for their work on this case.