Mr. Brigham represented Tom Scholl of Keystone Coal Company in “slow-take” proceedings filed by the Jacksonville Port Authority (“Jaxport”). Prior to the lawsuit, Mr. Scholl purchased 60 acres +/- of waterfront property on the St. Johns River to construct an intramodal bulk terminal. He was first in the marketplace to recognize that the property was the only suitable property between Charleston, S.C., and Mobile, AL with the originating railroad being Norfolk Southern, a strategic characteristic particularly for the import and export of coal. Mr. Scholl’s purchase price was $8 million.
Jaxport’s intent was to use the power of eminent domain to take 110 acres +/- of property from Keystone and an adjacent owner and then lease the land to another coal company for $11 million per year. Although arguing that the taking lacked a constitutional public purpose, Keystone was not able to appeal the circuit court’s ruling upholding Jaxport’s authority to take without proceeding to a valuation trial. In spite of an evidentiary ruling that Jaxport’s $11 million per year lease with the rival coal company was inadmissible, Mr. Brigham was still able to persuade a jury through a comparable sales approach to enter their verdict of $67 million, the largest eminent domain verdict in Florida state court proceedings.
As a result of the jury verdict, Jaxport elected to abandon the taking. While changing its mind on the acquisition, Jaxport could not walk away from its obligation to pay Keystone’s attorneys’ fees and costs. In creative fashion, Mr. Brigham persuaded Jaxport to sell the balance of the 110 acres +/- acres to Keystone in exchange for Mr. Scholl assuming the obligation to pay attorneys’ fees and paying a premium to purchase the neighboring property. Thus, with a bit of irony at the end of this condemnation, it was Keystone that ended up acquiring Jaxport’s property.
Today, Keystone has completed its development of a first-class, intramodal terminal. The private port is now in operation as Keystone’s global gateway for a wide range of bulk cargos including coal, pet-coke, and stone.
Link: Article “Port Authority Gets KO’d in Condemnation Case”
Times Union – March 2009
Link: Article “Jury Verdict Could Foil Port Coal Site Plan”
Times Union – May 2008
Link: Article “Brigham Moore Attains Highest Jury Award for Eminent Domain Valuation in Florida Circuit Court”
Marketwire – May 2008
Link: Local News “Property Owner Battles Jaxport Over Eminent Domain” First Coast News
Link: Local News ”New Multi-Million Terminal Facility Opens in Jacksonville”
ActionNewsJax.com (Fox 30 WAWS) – July 2011