SHARP V. UNITED STATES, 191 U. S. 341 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sharp v. United States, 191 U.S. 341 (1903)

Sharp v. United States

No. 208

Argued October 29-30, 1903

Decided November 30, 1903

191 U.S. 341


On condemnation proceedings, it was not error, under the circumstances of this case, to exclude evidence offered by the owner as to offers received by him to purchase or lease the property. Evidence as to offers for real estate is entirely different from evidence as to prices offered and accepted or rejected for articles which are constantly dealt in and have a known and ready sale in the markets and exchanges.

Where the government condemns part of a parcel of land, the damage to the remainder of that parcel arising from the probable use which the government will make of the part taken is a proper subject of award, but where the entire parcel is taken, the owner cannot recover for prospective damages, owing to such probable use, to separate and adjoining parcels owned by him.

Where all the circumstances as to value, including prospective enhancement if projected railroads and trolleys were built, are left to the jury, which was also permitted to consider damages to adjoining parcels if, by reason of the parcel taken, they were made too small to work profitably, this Court will not reverse on the ground that the jury was not properly charged as to questions of value.

Where, on condemnation proceedings, under the practice in New Jersey, after a trial in the district court, there is a new trial in the circuit court with a jury, the trial is de novo and the only testimony to be considered is that received on the second trial supplemented by the personal view of the premises by the jury.

The plaintiff in error has sued out this writ for the purpose of reviewing a judgment of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which affirmed a judgment of the District Court of New Jersey awarding damages to plaintiff in error for the taking of certain property of his on the Delaware River, near Fort Mott, in that state. The award of the jury was, in the opinion of the plaintiff in error, entirely inadequate as just compensation to him as the owner of the land for its taking by the government.

Pursuant to an Act of Congress approved August 18, 1890, 26 Stat. 315, making appropriations for fortifications and

Page 191 U. S. 342

other works of defense, and, also, under other acts of Congress and an Enabling Act of the State of New Jersey, the United States district attorney for that state commenced these condemnation proceedings. At the time of their commencement, the plaintiff in error was the owner of three separate and independent, although adjoining, farms or tracts of land known respectively as the "Dunham," the "Gibbons" and the "White" farms. It is the Gibbons farm which is taken by these proceedings.

Under the New Jersey practice in condemnation matters, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey duly appointed three commissioners to appraise the value of the land in question, which they did, and made their report July 16, 1900, in which they reported that they had appraised the value of 41.75 acres of land to be taken at the sum of $500 per acre, or a total sum of $20,875, and they fixed the damages sustained by reason of the taking of that land for the purposes stated, to the remaining tracts of land at the sum of $12,953. An appeal from the award of the commissioners was duly taken in behalf of the United States to the United States court for the District of New Jersey, and, in accordance with the practice, an issue was framed to be tried before the court and jury as a proceeding de novo. The issue as presented for trial was

"Whether the sum of $500 per acre -- in all, the sum of $20,875 -- is a just and equitable estimate or appraisement of the value of the said 41.75 acres of land required to be taken for the purposes aforesaid, and whether the damages sustained by reason of the taking of the said 41.75 acres by the United States for the purpose aforesaid to the remainder of the tracts of land from which the above-mentioned tract is taken, and its issues, and which the parties in interest will sustain by reason of the premises, amount to the sum of $12,953, and if not, what is a just and equitable estimate or appraisement of the value of same, and an assessment of damages to be paid by the said the United States of America, for such lands or materials and damages aforesaid? "

Page 191 U. S. 343

It was also ordered that a jury should be struck, and a view of the premises and property described in the report of the commissioners and in the petition should be had by the jury. This was done, and a trial subsequently had. Testimony was taken upon the trial, and by consent of counsel it was agreed that the jury might bring in a verdict stating such a lump sum for the value of the lands and the damages to the adjacent property as they thought was fairly proven from the testimony produced before them.

The jury found and assessed the value of the lands and the damages sustained at the sum of $12,000, to be paid the plaintiff in error by the United States. Judgment having been duly entered upon the award of the jury, an appeal was taken to the circuit court of appeals, where the judgment was affirmed, 112 F.8d 3, and the case is now before us on writ of error sued out by the owner of the land.

Page 191 U. S. 348

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