Eminent Domain

Eminent domain (or “condemnation”) is the inherent power of government to take private property – Private property cannot be taken unless it is for a public use and the government pays just compensation.

An owner or tenant whose property rights are threatened by eminent domain should consult early on with an attorney who is experienced in the field and knowledgeable about the limits of the government’s power and what can be done to challenge it. Figliulo & Silverman has extensive knowledge of the constitutional guarantees and other legal limitations that protect the property rights of owners and tenants from eminent domain abuse.

If the government is properly exercising its power, the remaining issue is compensation. Ascertaining “just compensation” requires a clear understanding of the complicated rules of property rights valuation, including the valuation of leases. Figliulo & Silverman has spent thousands of hours litigating the myriad issues in the valuation process, including probable zoning changes, easements, access and internal circulation, parking, mineral and air rights, environmental contamination, wetlands, floodplain and floodway, drainage, visibility, proximity, historic designation, signage and billboards. In addition to addressing these and other valuation issues, Figliulo & Silverman also pursues relocation benefits for clients.

If the government refuses to offer compensation acceptable to their clients, Figliulo & Silverman has experienced trial lawyers with an outstanding record of successful outcomes in eminent domain jury trials. Figliulo & Silverman also has experience representing owners in instances where the government trespasses upon, regulates or interferes with the use or possession of one’s property to such an extent that the owner is denied the property’s economic benefits or use. When the government effectively “takes” private property or property rights without filing an eminent domain case, the property owner or tenant may have a claim against the government for “inverse condemnation.”

The following is a representative sample of matters handled by the firm:

  • Obtained one of the highest jury verdicts ever in an eminent domain case. A municipality threatened to take by eminent domain a client’s golf course for a park, claiming the property was worth $4 to $6 million. Figliulo & Silverman took the case to a jury, arguing that the property value was closer to $25 million. After only 20 minutes of deliberation the jury awarded $25 million. Not only was the verdict among the highest in Illinois, it achieved national recognition when the National Law Journal reported it to be one of the 100 highest verdicts in the nation for all types of cases that year.
  • Obtained a $24-million verdict from a federal jury in a case in which a commuter railroad interfered with a client’s air rights over a site in downtown Chicago. Although the case was not an inverse condemnation case per se it was similar in many respects.
  • Represented a municipality in an eminent domain action related to the taking of a federally subsidized housing complex against myriad challenges, including the blight designation and defenses under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Prevailed on behalf of a municipality in federal appeal of an eminent domain case involving whether Supremacy Clause bars municipal taking of Section 8 housing project.
  • Successfully sued a governmental body for “taking” a client’s property after the government imposed significant restrictions on the client’s right to use the property.