On June 25, 2013, the a New Jersey appellate court reversed a trial court decision in State v. Shalom Money Street and remanded for trial. The primary issue on appeal was whether the Superior Court had the authority to reinstate a condemnation commissioners’ award where both parties appealed the award for a jury trial de novo. The answer on appeal was a clear “no”.
The Appellate Court correctly noted that the filing of an appeal for a trial de novo “renders the commissioners’ award nugatory.” In reversing, the Appellate Court distinguished the two cases relied upon by the trial court because they both involved a situation where only one party appealed the award and then withdrew the appeal. In that situation, the Commissioners’ Award becomes a final judgment because there is no longer any challenge to the award.
Finally, the Appellate Court found an abuse of discretion in denying an adjournment request where “the trial court’s decision to bar both expert reports stripped both parties of their ability to present a case as to the just compensation to be awarded.” This portion of the decision underscores the importance of the experts’ reports in eminent domain trials, as it is very common for the valuation expert to be the only witness presented by a party, and the preclusion of the expert’s testimony may be tantamount to a summary judgment in many cases.