Landowner takes fight against VDOT to Va. Supreme Court

By Jason Marks, WAVY-TV 10 – 2/23/2015

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach landowners squared off against the Virginia Department of Transportation Monday morning, in front of the state supreme court.

For Jim Ramsey, the trip to Richmond was just another leg in a six-year journey. In 2009, part of his land was taken by VDOT to be used for the London Bridge off-ramp from Interstate 264. It was an especially hard pill to swallow because the land has been in the Ramsey family for more than a century.

“We are going to face off with VDOT this morning. Hopefully we will be successful,” Ramsey told 10 On Your Side Monday morning. “I’m just looking forward to this being over. It’s been years now. It is just always in the back of my mind.”

VDOT originally offered Ramsey $248,000 for the land, but the family thought it was worth a lot more and hired an attorney. Before trial, VDOT came back and told them their land was reappraised at $90,000, and that’s the number VDOT told the jury. State law allowed VDOT to not tell the jury about the original offer. The jury awarded the Ramseys only $234,000, which was thousands less than the original appraisal.

The Ramseys are asking Virginia Supreme Court justices to rule that all evidence needs to be heard by the jury.

“I think this is a compelling case, because the government is asking the jury to be shielded from the truth,” said Steve Emmert, the Ramsey’s attorney.

Monday’s hearing was only 30 minutes. Each side had 15 minutes to make its case to the seven justices, who peppered both sides with questions. One justice asked, wouldn’t it be fair to the landowner to have all the information heard?

VDOT answered by saying they negotiated the cost of the land in good faith and are simply following state law.

“That’s all the Ramseys asked for in this case, that all the facts go to the jury so they could make an informed decision,” said Jeremy Hopkins, another attorney representing the Ramsey family.

Should the high court rule in favor of the Ramseys, there will be a new trial. 10 On Your Side was told the decision will take seven weeks. You can count on to have the verdict for you as soon as it is available.

Click here for video.