Case Involving Expert Testimony Based on a Misunderstanding of the Law

In State Dep't of Transp. v. Byrd, 254 So. 2d 836 (Fla. 1st DCA 1971), as part of a road-widening project, the Department of Transportation ("DOT") condemned a strip of land that was used by a motel for parking. On appeal, DOT argued that the trial court erred in refusing to admit testimony of the department's appraiser that the taking would not result in severance damages because the lost parking spaces could be relocated on a portion of the motel's property where a shuffleboard court was located. The district court, however, concluded that the trial court properly excluded the appraiser's testimony because it was based upon a misconception of the law of severance damages and failed to take into account the loss of use of the shuffleboard court area. See id. at 837. The district court explained, "The expert's opinion ignores the reality of the missing shuffleboard court or if the same were to be rebuilt on yet another portion of appellees' property, the expert ignores the reduction in value of a motel with smaller grounds for its guests to enjoy or perhaps lesser area for expansion." Id. at 836-37. Similarly, in Williams v. State Dep't of Transp., 579 So. 2d 226 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) the First District held that DOT's expert's testimony was based on a misconception of the law. At trial, the expert first testified that the taking would result in severance damages of $ 177,000 if nothing was done to correct the loss of parking. However, the expert stated that a rear parking area could be constructed on the remaining property at a cost of approximately $ 24,000. The expert opined that the value of the remainder property converted to parking was $ 48,000. Thus, the expert concluded that all of the damages and effects to the remainder could be cured by the payment of $ 72,000. Relying on Byrd, the district court concluded that the expert's testimony was based on a misconception of the law and should not have been admitted. See 579 So. 2d at 229. Spe