Eminent Domain: The Difference Between Direct and Indirect Condemnation Trials

Eminent domain laws allow the government to take private property and use it for some type of public good, as long as the owner of the property is justly compensated and the public good is sufficiently important. These laws also allow a private company to take property, as long as it will be used for an important project that is intended to provide significant benefit to the public as a whole. These laws are commonly misunderstood and can be very confusing, which can sometimes lead people to get taken advantage of.

If the property owner that is having their property taken away under eminent domain objects to the process, they have a right to a trial. There are two types of trials that apply to this type of situation, and understanding the difference is critical.

Direct Condemnation Trials

A direct condemnation trial is conducted when a governmental agency or private company wants to acquire specific property, but the property owner objects. In this type of case, the entity that wants to acquire the property will have to show the courts their justification for using eminent domain. In addition, they will have to prove that they are offering to pay the current owner at least a fair market value for the property in question.

During the trial, the property owner can attempt to convince the judge that the entity attempting to use eminent domain doesn’t have the right to do so. It can be argued that the project won’t sufficiently benefit the public, that they aren’t offering sufficient compensation, or that there is an alternative way to complete their project without taking the property, among other things. At the end of the trial, the judge will determine if the eminent domain request will be approved. 

Indirect Condemnation Trials

The other type of eminent domain trial is known as an indirect condemnation trial and is used when the government or other entity impacts someone’s property without compensation. For example, if a governmental agency makes significant changes to the water drainage of an area in order to establish a state park, it could impact the surrounding property. The property owner of a nearby plot of land may file a suit that shows that their actions have flooded their land, making it unusable.

 This type of case can be filed whether the impact to the property is permanent, or if it is just a temporary change. In the example cited above, the property owner would still have a strong case even if the land would only be flooded for one season.

Get the Representation You Need

Eminent domain cases, whether direct or indirect, are typically very complicated. In order to successfully navigate the process, you will want to have an experienced legal team on your side. We’ve helped many people fight against an eminent domain attempt, and will be happy to help you too. Please contact us to discuss your specific situation, and get started on your case today.

Written by Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill

Jack R. Sturgill, the Owner and CEO of Jack’s Law, has practiced civil litigation for over 40 years. As an experienced litigator and real estate, estate planning, and estate administration law attorney in Maryland, he focuses his practice on legal matters pertaining to real estate, land use, eminent domain and condemnation, business and corporate law, estate planning, estate administration, personal injury, and administrative law.