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Michael is a shareholder in
the Eminent Domain and
Litigation Departments of the
Los Angeles law firm, Richards,
Watson & Gershon.
The Trial Proceeds
At the start of trial, the court asked the City
to present their case first. After the City
presented the testimony of its valuation
expert, the property owners attempted a few
mostly insignificant cross-examination style
questions. Surprisingly, the judge then took it
upon herself to cross-examine the City expert
witness on behalf of the property owners. The
judge asked the property owners to testify
on what they believed to be the value of the
part taken and even inquired about possible
severance damages. The property owners had
much difficulty articulating the factual and
legal bases for their opinions even with the
judge prompting them with leading questions.
At the trial’s end, the court issued a judgment
based upon City’s expert testimony at $23,700,
ultimately completely disregarding the
testimony of the property owners.
The City tendered a check to the property
owners pursuant to the judgment, but the
check remained uncashed for several months.
Upon further inquiry, the City learned that the
property owners refused to cash the check in
protest of the eminent domain process and
the judgment in condemnation.
About a year after the case completion,
the City’s accounting department contacted
the City’s trial attorneys and informed them
that the property owners had still not cashed
the check nor had they withdrawn any funds
on deposit with the court. What process
did the City need to follow for handling the
property owners’ funds? In California, there
is a specific statutory scheme for handling
these unclaimed fund situations in Code of
Civil Procedure Sec. 1520. To summarize
the statute, any funds that are designated as
“unclaimed” after three years of inaction are
to be forwarded to the State of California
Treasurer’s Office and are then held—with no
time limit—by the State of California until a
claim for the funds is made and approved.
Luckily, this story ended on a good
note, as we learned that the property
owners in this matter recently claimed and
withdrew the just compensation funds that
were transferred by the City to the State
Treasurer’s Office. J