Another one (short) from the Kansas Supreme Court, this time a straight takings case, and not inverse condemnation.
In Pener v. King, No. 114850 (Mar. 24, 2017), the court tackled several issues in a case involving KDOT's taking of land for highway project. Part of the taking required KDOT to take down the owner's fences. The owner argued that he should be separately compensated for the cost to replace the fencing. The Supreme Court held that the just comp award included the fencing, and that it wasn't a separately value taking. The "unit rule" means that property is valued as a whole, not piece by piece.
The court also rejected the owner's argument that the just compensation verdict wasn't supported by the evidence (we will let you read that on your own, if interested), and then concluded by affirming the trial court's denial of an award of attorneys' fees to the property owner.
Under Kansas law, an owner is entitled to fees and costs in two situations. First, when the condemnor abandons the taking. Second, when the authority appeals an appraiser award, and a jury concludes the landowner is entitled to more. Unfortunately for the owner, neither of these two situations presented themselves. Here, the owner, not the condemning authority instituted the appeal. Facing that obstacle, the owner argued that he was entitled to fees and costs under the Uniform Relocation Act, which requires fees be paid in inverse condemnation cases. The court rejected the owner's argument that the URA covered all "acquisitions," concluding that this wasn't an inverse condemnation case. While it is true the URA doesn't talk expressly about "inverse condemnation," the reality, according to the court, was that this was a straight-up condemnation action:
The C.F.R. provisions plainly require the reimbursement of attorney fees only when a taking is abandoned or in inverse condemnation cases. Pener's argument for an expansive interpretation that universally covers "all acquisitions" would obliterate the limiting provisions in the C.F.R. Moreover, K.A.R. 36-16-1 applies to an administrative claims process, not eminent domain litigation under K.S.A. 26-501 et seq. Pener's argument is without merit.
Slip op. at 13. Nor do Kansas courts have the inherent power to award fees for what the owner characterized as bad faith precondemnation conduct by KDOT. Slip op. at 15-16 ("Even if the court could have awarded Pener the sanctions he requested on some other set of facts, it could not have done so on these facts").