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Stephon Bagne Secures Major Victory in Airport Taking

December 18, 2023

Birmingham Member Stephon Bagne successfully represented a pair of property owners in a northern Michigan airport eminent domain matter. Through settlement following pretrial motions, Bagne secured an additional payment of $1.79 million.

The settlement amount is approximately 15 times the amount the airport intended to offer as just compensation at trial.

“The airport condemned an avigation easement. While it did not expressly preclude expansion of the existing business, it was our position that it made an expansion imprudent,” Bagne said.

Bagne initially sought $1.5 million in additional just compensation. A week prior to trial, the airport filed a motion to exclude Bagne’s appraisal position by arguing expansion was still a possibility.

“I had chosen not to seek to strike the airport’s appraisal for strategic reasons but when the airport decided to attack our position, I responded in kind,” Bagne said.

During a pre-trial hearing, the judge ruled in Bagne’s favor on all motions, allowing his appraisal to be admitted while excluding the airport’s appraisal. The trial was adjourned and settlement followed.

“The airport faced the uncertainty that judgment could be entered in our appraisal amount while we faced the uncertainty that the judge might allow the airport to reappraise the property and essentially restart the litigation process,” Bagne said.

Settlement led to each side making concessions in the easement language while formally preventing expansion of the property owners’ existing business. The airport agreed to language that reduced some of the damages Bagne claimed by allowing other uses on the property, and the airport paid out the vast majority of Bagne’s remaining claims and all the property owners’ legal, expert witness, and other litigation expenses, allowing the owners to keep all the just compensation and interest paid.

“This was a huge victory, and I’m very happy for our clients to have a positive outcome in this matter,” Bagne said. “I’ve handled hundreds of condemnation cases and airport takings matters, so it’s great to be able to help another client get the compensation they deserve.  It was particularly satisfying because the Court relied upon a published opinion upholding a jury verdict that I had obtained in a prior airport condemnation.”

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