Louisiana Record

Friday, February 28, 2020

Eminent domain case over Louisiana harbor returned to state Supreme Court


By Takesha Thomas | Sep 22, 2018

LA Supreme Court will determine if former dock owners are owed additional money in eminent domain case | morguefile

NEW ORLEANS — An eminent domain case involving the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District is sent back to the Louisiana Supreme Court for review. The courts must now determine: Was the property value fair?

The Court of Appeal Fourth Circuit for the State of Louisiana ruled on Sept. 12 to amend and remand the case involving Violet Dock Port and St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District. 

"On remand, we have been directed to conduct a de novo review of the evidence in the record to arrive at a valuation of just compensation," court documents state.

Violet Dock Port and St. Bernard Port had negotiated for several years over the purchase of property along the Mississippi River that was owned by Violet Dock Port, court documents say. But those negotiations failed and St. Bernard began eminent domain proceedings with the state of Louisiana.

According to court documents, a trial court found that Violet Dock should be compensated $16 million for the property. However, Violet Dock Port "experts presented reports and testimony suggesting that full replacement cost for the land and improvements would be $73,148,000 without taking into account depreciation." 

In the Sept. 12 ruling, the courts affirmed the trial court's determination that Violet Dock Port should be paid the depreciation amount of $28,764,685. The courts acknowledged that the property "was unique in nature" making it "indispensable to the business operations" for Violet Dock.

According to court documents, Violet Dock "had constructed a fully operational, private port facility with five steel and concrete docks. Three of the berths were certified by the Navy for lay berthing ocean-going ships." 

Violet Dock held contracts "for providing services to the Navy for decades". Through the years, Violet Dock renovated and installed equipment necessary to continue to provide services to the Navy for its contracts. 

According to court documents, St. Bernard Port "relied on the uniqueness of the property in order to secure a $15 million grant from the Louisiana Port Construction and Development Program. "The appraisals in the record repeatedly recognized that the facility and business operations were highly specialized. That is further evident by the fact that the St. Bernard Port is now servicing the Navy contracts once held by Violet Dock," court documents state.

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