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Who can exercise eminent domain authority?

The rules of eminent domain allow a government entity, whether a local government, state agency or federal interest, to acquire someone’s private property for a project that is deemed to benefit the public good. The landowner should receive fair compensation for the acquisition, but often the amount of compensation is not the issue. Texas property owners are not always eager to surrender their land unless they are convinced the resulting project is truly in the public’s best interests.

One example of this is a landowner who claims a privately-owned railroad and infrastructure company harassed him for over three years, claiming eminent domain over a portion of the man’s property. The company planned to build a high-speed railway that would bisect the man’s property. While a trial court supported the man’s claim that the company is a private entity and therefore does not have the power of eminent domain, the court of appeals overturned that ruling and determined the company is a railroad by law and therefore has the authority.

Unbridled use of eminent domain

The concept of eminent domain is exclusive to governmental authority. The crux of this lawsuit is that a private company does not have such authority. Further, the landowner contends that the company does not have the financial backing or railroad experience to complete the project for which they want to seize hundreds of acres of private land.

Fighting the authority of eminent domain means dealing with complex nuances of the law and its definitions. Because of this, those facing eminent domain issues in Texas would be wise not to go to battle alone. Instead, they may benefit from the assistance of a legal professional with experience advocating for property owners embroiled in eminent domain disputes.