Opinion:State ex. Rel. Department of Transportation v. Trade Winds Motor Hotel East, 2021 OK CIV APP 6
Subject matter:Condemnation
Date Decided:July 23, 2020
Trial Court:Tulsa County, Honorable Rebecca Nightingale
Route to this Court:Appeal from Jury Verdict; Assigned to Division IV of Court of Civil Appeals.
Facts:This action concerned condemnation proceedings involving the now-defunct Tulsa Trade Winds Motor Hotel East and “condemnation-related litigation that has spanned more than a decade.”  The litigation was “prolonged by a series of physical calamities and legal conundrums that occurred in the interim.” In May 2010, while ODOT Contractors worked to relocate City of Tulsa water lines that were on the utility easement taken by ODOT, water leaks and flooding suddenly began to occur within, around, and under the Hotel, causing considerable damage. In 2016, the trial court reappointed commissioners to assess the damage from the taking and gave this instruction:  “the ‘claimed water damage’ to the remainder property ‘is not ‘incident to the taking’ because the damage resulted from the alleged negligence of third parties and not from something inherent in the project.” When the case went to trial, the trial court then precluded the hotel from introducing evidence of water-related damage to the property allegedly caused by ODOT Contractors’ water line relocation work to the jury. The jury returned a verdict for damages for $340,000. 
Standard of Review:Abuse of discretion on evidentiary issues; de novo for questions of law regarding condemnation proceedings; jury’s verdict will be upheld unless it “manifestly appears that it is unjust and not supported by any competent evidence.” 
Analysis:After an in-depth review of the case law, COCA concluded that “damages recoverable by a landowner in a condemnation case may include damages from condemnor’s tortious conduct.” The court then concluded that evidence of water damage to the hotel was evidence of damages that should have been considered in the condemnation case. Such damages not only occurred prior to the condemnation hearing, but they were both relevant and necessary to a jury’s factual determination of the value of the property taken, and in addition, any injury to any part of the property not taken. The evidence was excluded based on the false presumption that all damages attributable to a tort claim concerning the hotel’s property had already been decided and paid. The exclusion, thus, was based on an erroneous view of both the facts and the law, and the absence of such evidence undoubtedly substantially prejudiced the hotel in making its case to the jury. 
Outcome:Vacated and remanded. 
Vote:Thornbrugh, J. (author), Barnes, J., Rapp, J., concur. 
Other: Cert. denied; counsel for hotel made an offer of proof for purposes of the record that Judge Thornbrugh described as:  “a voluminous ‘offer of proof’ related to the water damages issues in the case. The offer contains transcripts of deposition testimony by an engineer, an appraiser, and the Hotel’s owner/manager, as well as business records, photographs, and ODOT contracts/reports concerning the effect that the water leaks and flooding had on the operation and value of the ‘remainder property,’ i.e., the Hotel.