The eminent domain process begins when your property is identified for acquisition by whatever condemning authority is in charge of the project. Early on, the condemning authority will typically obtain an appraisal of your property, which it uses to form the basis for its valuation of your property. Prior to initiating an eminent domain proceeding or filing any petition with the Circuit Court, the condemning authority is required to try to come to an agreement for the purchase of your property.

After the petition is approved by the local governing body it is filed with the Circuit Court. The court subsequently appoints three commissioners to determine the condemnation award for your property. The commissioners have 15 days from the date of their appointment to provide the Circuit Court with a written report providing the amount of the condemnation award. After receipt of the award from the commissioners and upon application of the condemning authority, the clerk of the Circuit Court will serve a summons on the property owner and include a statement of the amount of the award.

The property owner has 20 days after receiving the summons to answer and show cause why the condemning authority does not have the right to take the property. If the taking satisfies the public use, then no action is necessary at this time.

If the summons is not answered within 20 days, the court will order approval for the use of eminent domain and authorize the condemning authority to take possession of the property. Authorization is granted upon payment of commissioner’s award to the property owner or the clerk of court.

However, either party can appeal the condemnation award by filing exceptions. Exceptions may only pertain to the amount of compensation owed. They must be filed within 30 days of the Courts’ authorization of the use of eminent domain. If exceptions are not filed, the Court orders the transfer of title, and the final judgment will be made.

If exceptions are filed by either party, the case will be set for jury trial limited to only the amount of compensation paid. As frequently happens in civil litigation, the parties are free to negotiate and settle the dispute outside of court at any time before or during the jury trial.