Partial Taking of Property Fair Market Value Compensation

When the state condemns private property for public use, the owner of the property is entitled to "just compensation." or Const, Art I, 18. Just compensation generally is taken to refer to "fair market value," which, in turn, refers to what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller. Highway Comm. v. Superbilt Mfg. Co., 204 Ore. 393, 412, 281 P.2d 707 (1955). In the case of a partial taking of property, fair market value is measured by the value of the property acquired plus any severance damages, that is, any depreciation in the value of the remaining property caused by the taking. Dept. of Trans. v. Lundberg, 312 Ore. 568, 574, 825 P.2d 641, cert den 506 U.S. 975, 121 L. Ed. 2d 374, 113 S. Ct. 467 (1992). In determining the fair market value of land, the threshold of relevancy is low. Lundberg, 312 Ore. at 575. the Supreme Court has instructed that "'all considerations that might fairly be brought forward and reasonably be given substantial weight in negotiations between the owner and a prospective purchaser' should be taken into account." Id. (quoting Superbilt Mfg. Co., 204 Ore. at 412). We review determinations of relevancy for errors of law. State v. Barone, 329 Ore. 210, 237, 986 P.2d 5 (1999), cert den U.S., 120 S.Ct. 813, 145 L. Ed. 2d 685 (January 10, 2000). We review the trial court's decision to admit relevant evidence for abuse of discretion. Davis v. Homasote Company, 281 Ore. 383, 387-88, 574 P.2d 1116 (1978); see also Callahan, 242 Ore. at 553 ("Admissibility of evidence of sales of other land is largely within the discretion of the trial court."). In Callahan, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court's refusal to admit evidence of the sale of other land when the sale price of the land might have been affected by an impending condemnation. The court did not say that the evidence was not relevant. It held only that, because the appraiser could not say that the sale was unaffected by artificial market conditions induced by the anticipated condemnation, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the witness's testimony as evidence of the value of the property taken by the state. 242 Ore. at 553-54.