The government has the power to appropriate your property but do not often understand the vast effect this can have on businesses. Eminent domain lawyers are there to ensure you are receiving full compensation for the property being taken. This month we speak with Prineet Sharma, who has been awarded Lawyer of the Year for his work as an eminent domain lawyer.
Besides unjust compensation, are there any other reasons why businesses should seek legal advice and help when the government wishes to appropriate their private property?
The government’s obligation is to be stewards of the public tax dollars in determining the amount of compensation to pay for an eminent domain taking. Our obligation to our clients is to maximize the compensation for the owner impacted by the taking. Many times, takings can dramatically impact the viability of a business. When we are engaged in the process early, we can assist our property owner to best position themselves for maximizing compensation. In Florida, the government is required by law to pay our attorney fees based on a percentage of the increase we achieve for the owner. The owner does not have to pay out of pocket for our legal fees nor does it come out of their eminent domain award. Since there is no cost incurred by the owner, owners should retain eminent domain counsel in every case to make sure they do not give up property without being fairly compensated.
What are the first steps you take when faced with such a case?
We meet with our client and get an understanding of what is important to them, what concerns them and their ultimate objective. We then develop a strategy particular to that client and proactively execute until all three areas are addressed.
How do you determine what is fair compensation and what is not?
Fair Compensation, or Full Compensation, is the amount of compensation an owner should be paid to be made whole, as if the taking never occurred. Many times, the government undervalues the real impact to the owner and it is our job to make sure that does not happen.
Are there any factors business and property owners tend to dismiss, thus resulting in unfair action taken by the party wishing to retain their property?
A lot of times, owners are not familiar with the process, what is legally compensable and the government’s obligations. Thus, sometimes owners provide information to the Government that is used to justify offering less compensation. The government is not looking out for the owner, they are looking to complete the project quickly and for as little as possible. We level the playing field.
How common are such cases in Florida and how heated can disputes get? How do you deal with this?
As a growing state, Florida has billions of dollars dedicated to public improvement projects. Private property is often required for these projects. Eminent domain is one of the only areas where the owner has done nothing wrong but can be sued. Our goal is to reach agreement, but unfortunately sometimes the only way to get the required result, is to go to trial.
Do you think anything could be done in order to improve the laws that are in place, for your clients? The eminent domain laws in the State of Florida are very favorable to property owners. They provide that the government has to pay for any attorney or experts that the property owner hires to defend their case. As such, an owner should avail themselves of these laws and hire counsel immediately. It costs the owner nothing and they can be assured someone is looking out for their interests.
You have been highly commended for your practice in eminent domain, including being awarded as Lawyer of the Year. What qualities do you think makes the best eminent lawyer?
Having commitment, empathy, conviction, persuasiveness and being goal driven.