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State Ex rel. Tennessee Department of Transportation v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 25, 2015


Session Date: November 20, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. CC157004 Robert L. Jones, Judge

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Acting Solicitor General; and Mary S. Foust, Senior Counsel; Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tennessee Department of Transportation.

R. Slade Sevier, Jr., and Nicholas A. DuPuis, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, William Ernest Jones and Alice P. Jones.

W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.



I. Factual and Procedural Background

William and Alice Jones own a farm in Lawrence County, Tennessee. The farm is made up of two separate tracts of land, one located north of existing Highway 64 and one south of the highway. The Joneses purchased the two tracts of land in 1993 to operate a dairy farm. The northern section consists of 100 acres used for grazing cattle and is largely unimproved. The southern section contains 139 acres and is the site of the dairy farm operation and its supporting improvements.

On April 2, 2004, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (the "State") filed a petition for condemnation seeking to acquire a 16.483 acre portion of the northern section of the farm by eminent domain. The State alleged the land was necessary for the construction of a new, four-lane segment of Highway 64. The Circuit Court for Lawrence County granted the State's petition on April 27, 2004.

The new segment of Highway 64 was constructed in late 2010. Rather than widening the existing highway, which remains in place between the northern and southern tracts of the Joneses' farm, the State used the new segment to realign the highway. The new highway segment bisects the northern tract; it does not physically encroach on the southern tract or any of the farm improvements.[1]

The State initially tendered $43, 000 as consideration for the purchase of the land. The trial court disbursed the funds to the Joneses by consent order entered June 7, 2004. In their answer, filed February 2, 2005, the Joneses argued that the tender was inadequate compensation for the taking. On July 28, 2011, the State tendered an additional $10, 341 to the Joneses, which was disbursed shortly thereafter.

On July 29-31, 2013, a jury trial was held to determine the amount of damages due the Joneses because of the taking. William Jones, Jr., the Joneses' son and primary operator of the dairy farm, testified about operations before the construction of new Highway 64. The dairy farm used a wet/dry system to manage cow manure. Under the wet/dry system, the manure collected from the confinement barn[2] was removed and placed in either a dry stack facility or a lagoon. When the lagoon or dry stack facility was full, Mr. Jones, Jr. then distributed the manure around the farm. He transported a large percentage of the manure to the northern tract of the property. According to Mr. Jones, Jr., the northern tract, which was set up for grazing, had a soil type that would "take about three times the manure as the south side."

Prior to the condemnation, Mr. Jones, Jr. used a tractor to transport manure from the southern tract to the northern tract. Mr. Jones, Jr. testified that, although there were risks associated with crossing the two-lane highway, such as oncoming traffic and spillage, the risks associated with crossing the new, four-lane segment of Highway 64 were much greater. To avoid the risks associated with crossing the anticipated new highway, Mr. Jones, Jr. testified that he began building a new confinement barn in 2005 and started the process of implementing a new manure management plan in 2008 or 2009.

After heavy flooding occurred in 2010, the dairy farm stopped using the wet/dry system. The flooding caused the existing lagoon to "bust" or overflow and leak into a nearby creek. The Joneses then constructed a new lagoon and began moving the manure to a neighbor's farm located "right up the street."

Under this new "all wet" system, all of the liquid that accumulates in the confinement barn, including spillover milk and water, drains into the lagoon. Mr. Jones, Jr. then puts an agitator into the lagoon in order to convert the waste into liquid. After the manure liquefies, a "traveling gun" is ...

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