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Louisiana Eminent Domain Laws

In Louisiana, expropriation is used in the taking of private property for public use under the right of eminent domain.  The expropriation statute can be found in title 19 of the Louisiana revised statutes.  Pursuant to La. R.S. 19:2.1 the state or its political corporations or subdivisions shall file a petition in the district court of the parish in which the property to be expropriated is situated.  The petition shall contain a statement of the purposes for which the property is to be expropriated, describing the property necessary therefor with a plan of the same, a description of the improvements thereon, if any, and the name of the owner if known and present in the state.  The state shall provide the owner of the property information such as name, address and qualifications of the person preparing the appraisal or evaluation, estimated amount of compensation, description of the methodology used in the appraisal.  The state shall also offer to compensate the owner an amount equal to at least the lowest appraisal or evaluation[i].

Pursuant to La. R.S. 19:4 expropriation cases shall be tried before the court without a jury, except that a party shall have the right to trial by jury to determine compensation.  If the plaintiff desires a trial by jury, the demand shall be made in the petition.  If the defendant desires trial by jury s/he shall file his demand therefor within the time for filing his or her answer.

Pursuant to La. R.S. 19:5, upon the institution of a suit, the trial court shall issue an order fixing the time of trial.  The clerk of the court shall issue a notice to the defendant, at least 60 days before the time fixed for trial. The defendant shall file an answer within 15 days after the service upon the defendant of the notice of the time fixed for trial[ii]. Failure of the defendant in any such suit to timely file his or her answer constitutes a waiver by the defendant of all defenses to the suit except claims for money as compensation for the property sought to be expropriated and claims for money as damages to other property[iii].

All issues in the suit are decided by the trial judge[iv].  However, when a jury trial has been demanded, the judge shall hear the evidence on all issues, other than the measure of compensation and shall render a decision within five days.  If the trial judge decides in favor of the expropriating authority, then within 30 days after such decision, a jury shall be impaneled to determine the measure of compensation. Immediately after compensation has been determined, the plaintiff shall, upon motion of the defendant, present evidence as to the highest amount it offered the defendant for the property prior to trial on the merits.  After hearing evidence on the issue, the court shall determine the highest amount offered.  If the highest amount offered is less than the compensation awarded, the court may award reasonable attorney fees.  The expropriating authority shall not be entitled to possession or ownership of the property until a final judgment has been rendered and payment has been made to the owner or paid into the registry of the court.  If either party has demanded a trial by jury to determine compensation, the trial shall be in accordance with the general laws regulating trial by jury, except as provided in this part and except that in order to render any verdict, five of the jurors must concur therein.  The jury shall consist of six jurors.  After the trial to determine compensation, the court shall render judgment against the plaintiff in the amount of the compensation determined to be due the owner[v].

Pursuant to La. R.S. 19:9, in estimating the value of the property to be expropriated, the basis of assessment shall be the value of the property before the contemplated improvement was proposed, without deducting therefrom any amount for the benefit derived by the owner from the contemplated improvement or work.

The judgment of the court shall be subject to the decision of the appellate court on review under a devolutive appeal.  If any change in the amount awarded is made on such appeal, the plaintiff shall pay the additional assessment or recover the surplus paid[vi].

If the state has taken possession of privately owned property of another, and constructed facilities upon, with the consent of the owner of the property, such owner shall be deemed to have waived his right to contest the necessity for the taking and to receive just compensation prior to the taking.  However, the owner shall be entitled to bring an action for such compensation, to be determined in accordance with the provisions of R.S. 19:9, for the taking of his property or interest therein, the just compensation to be determined as of the time of the taking of the property, or right or interest therein, and such action shall proceed as if the state, its political corporation, or subdivision had filed a petition for expropriation[vii].

[i] La. R.S. 19:2.2.

[ii] La. R.S. 19:6.

[iii] La. R.S. 19:7.

[iv] La. R.S. 19:8.

[v] Id.

[vi] La. R.S. 19:13.

[vii] La. R.S. 19:14.

Inside Louisiana Eminent Domain Laws