A reader sends along this article reporting on a $7.7 million judgment awarded to a small business owner in San Diego whose property was condemned in order to make way for a new luxury hotel. The article implies that this was an unexpectedly high award. His lawyer "called the verdict a 'home run' ... and important for other property owners." The city had offered $3 million before trial. The city has not announced whether it will appeal.
Given the public choice and other political failures that are endemic to use of the eminent domain power for the benefit of private interests, and the unwillingness of the Supreme Court to do anything about it, it will be interesting to see if verdicts like this signify a beginning for jurors to step up and become more vigilant in ensuring that private property owners are being fully compensated for Kelo-style takings. If so, that would be an interesting and heartening development.
On the other hand, at least some of the award in this case resulted from the business owner's goodwill associated with operating in that location, which presumably would be absent from a homeowner's award.
This is personally interesting to me as well in that several years ago I actually published an article in the Case Western Reserve Law Review where I argued that one function of common law juries was to replicate James Buchanan's Wicksellian unanimity test at the time of application of the law, thereby making up for the non-unanimous voting rules applicable at the time of the enactment of the law. So that juries are one response to the political failures predicted to arise by public choice theory.