Doris White didn’t live to see the conclusion of her lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Transportation, but her attorney, Matthew Bryant of Hendrick Bryant Nerhood Sanders & Otis in Winston-Salem, said the $2.8 million settlement in her case had been a long time in coming.
“Fighting the State of North Carolina is not as easy as one might think to say the least,” he said. “It took a long time, but everyone has been properly compensated and it has been professionally very gratifying.”
White’s matter is among the last in a very large influx of inverse condemnation cases that has been occupying Bryant’s firm since 2009, when it began a challenge to the state’s Map Act, a piece of legislation from the late 1980s that allowed the DOT to draw up protected corridors covering parcels of property it wished to reserve for future acquisition in furtherance of roadway construction.
The act left landowners in the path of the state’s highway plans in limbo, with property that could be neither improved nor subdivided. White, whose farm was impacted by the Northern Beltway Corridor, was one example. Her suit accused the DOT of leaving plaintiffs like her in the lurch for years trapped with property that had little market value and crippling development restrictions.
Bryant said that ultimately his firm and its partners handled about 500 cases like White’s, stretching across seven or eight counties although most of them were in the Winston-Salem area.
The watershed moment came in 2016 with Kirby v. North Carolina Department of Transportation, in which the state’s Supreme Court sided with the landowners and ruled that compensation was owed to individuals whose land had been effectively appropriated by the state. After that, case after case began to settle.
“The firm has probably distributed close to $300 million in payouts over the last three years just on these condemnations,” Bryant said. “To the department’s credit, we reached resolutions that made sense to everybody … Ms. White had been in this situation for over a decade or two and, through the litigation, we were able to get that resolved along with all of her neighbors.”
SETTLEMENT REPORT – EMINENT DOMAIN
Amount: $2.8 million
Injuries alleged: Restrictions on development potential under the Map Act
Case name: Doris White v. North Carolina Dept. of Transportation
Court: Forsyth County
Case No.: 15-CVS-3231
Attorney for plaintiff: Matthew Bryant of Hendrick Bryant Nerhood & Sanders in Winston-Salem
Attorney for defendant: North Carolina Department of Transportation