Weldon v. State

In Weldon v. State, 495 So.2d 1113 (Ala.Civ.App.1985), the Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama rejected what it felicitously called the "substantial unity of ownership" standard in the context of a condemnation proceeding. In Weldon, the State of Alabama sought to acquire, for a highway, a strip of land that crossed three parcels of property. The three parcels, in conjunction with two others, had been used "as a single farming unit for more than forty years" and then deeded by the owner to his children. Id. at 1114. As the owners of those parcels would receive greater compensation for their loss if "the entire unit" was viewed "as a single tract of land," they argued that unity of ownership did not require that each of them have the same interest in all parts of the tract. Noting that the "apparent majority of jurisdictions require that the ownership interests in each parcel must be identical in both quality and quantity, before the parcels may be claimed as a single unit," that court rejected the "substantial unity of ownership" argument in favor of a "strict unity of ownership" standard. Id. at 1115. The court's reasoning in doing so is not unlike the reasoning underlying the result we reach today. It stated: "Strict unity of ownership has at least one clear advantage over the other and minority views. The rule provides a "bright-line test" that can be very easily and uniformly applied by trial judges in all cases. The other views necessitate an ad hoc approach to the law. In our review of the existing law, we could find no definitive explanation of what is meant by the phrase "substantial unity of ownership." We do not ascertain any clear way of determining in which cases a court may find that unity of ownership is necessary and in which it is not necessary." Id. at 1116. The Court concluded: It is evident that the lots of land in this case constitute distinct and separately owned tracts. Though the current owners of each parcel derived title from a common grantor, the affected parcels are now owned primarily by different persons. As such, the owners' argument that the parcels must be tried as a single unit must fail. Id.