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City of Asbury Park v. Jersey Urban Renewal, LLC

A-0677-09T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

CONDEMNATION; AWARDS — If a party, in a condemnation proceeding, fails to furnish an expert’s referenced statistical data to the other party, that expert’s testimony will not be permitted even if such material was exchanged in a separate, subsequent matter.

Property condemned by a municipality was owned by a group that planned on rehabilitating it. Just compensation was calculated by the municipality’s appraiser; later, a higher value was appraised by court-appointed condemnation commissioners. Both parties appealed the commissioners’ award to the Law Division. A jury awarded the condemnee even more.

During trial, the municipality’s expert testified with respect to municipal property values and the value of the subject property itself. The municipality also sought to offer testimony regarding the project’s influence on the municipality’s declaration of blight and subsequent efforts in the municipality. The condemnee objected, arguing that the municipality’s expert wanted to testify to data from years outside the scope of his report. The lower court sustained the objection because condemnee was not provided with the data from which the expert was to testify.

On appeal, the municipality argued that the lower court improperly precluded its expert from testifying, noting that the condemnee’s counsel was provided with the relevant data during a previous, unrelated condemnation matter. Because the legislature intended for the condemnation trial to be de novo, as if there had never been an administrative proceeding, the Appellate Division found that it would be erroneous to allow testimony from a commissioner’s hearing in a separate matter at trial.

The Court also noted that the lower court’s decision to exclude testimony regarding the years outside the scope of the expert’s report was not an abuse of discretion. The municipality never supplied the condemnee with the referenced statistical data, and such data was neither represented nor referenced in its expert’s report. Discovery materials exchanged between two attorneys in a previous matter are not de facto discovery materials in a separate, subsequent matter.

The municipality also argued that the lower court erred in allowing condemnee’s expert to give his expert opinion on negative project influence without having performed a detailed market based study of the municipality. However, this testimony was not a net opinion because it was based on factual knowledge that the condemnee’s expert gained in his extensive experience as a real estate appraiser. Finally, the Court dismissed the municipality’s request for a new trial, noting that the jury’s verdict was easily supported by the evidence presented.

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