Can a Jury Award Less Than the Value Stated by An Expert In An Eminent Domain Case ?

In Behm v. Div. of Admin., State Dept. of Transportation, 336 So. 2d 579 (Fla. 1976), an eminent domain case, our supreme court held that a jury can award business damages in an amount less than the amount testified to by the owner's expert even when the condemnor has failed to present opinion evidence as to value. In so ruling the court recognized that, in weighing the credibility of an expert's testimony, a jury in a condemnation case "may apply to the expert testimony their knowledge and experience, view of the property, as well as other evidence in the case to determine its reasonableness." Id. at 582. The court further noted that "compensation in an eminent domain case is by our constitution committed for final determination to the jury, not to an expert." Id. Similarly, in Volusia County v. Niles, 445 So. 2d 1043 (Fla. 5th DCA 1984), this court held that, in an eminent domain case, it is the province of the jury as finder of fact to determine the weight and credibility of the expert's testimony as to the value of severance damages, and that a jury is authorized to return a verdict awarding less than the unrefuted valuations opined by the expert. Id. 1047.