Texas Supreme Court Affirms Vinson & Elkins LLP's “Win for The Little Guy”
After a six-year “fight” over compensation owed for taking 3,200 square feet of land from their family-owned Action Collision Repair facility in Little Elm, Texas, the Texas Supreme Court recently affirmed the trial court’s Judgment in favor of Steve and Kim Morale for $1.064 million. The Texas Supreme Court’s opinion, delivered June 22, 2018, was vindication for the time, effort and money expended by Steve and Kim along with their attorneys – Donny Griffin and David Wall with Vinson & Elkins LLP – in pursuing fair compensation from the State of Texas. From the date the Condemnation Petition was filed in November 2012 until the May 2015 trial, the State offered only $49,000.00, and shortly before trial, $122,000.00 to the Morales. After a six-day jury trial in Denton County Probate Court, the jury returned a verdict of $1,064,335.00 upon which the trial court entered Judgment. The State of Texas appealed the jury verdict and the case was ultimately decided in the Morale’s favor by the Texas Supreme Court. With post-judgment interest applied to the jury verdict, the State of Texas paid $1.355 million in total compensation for the condemnation of the Morale’s property (net of $914,000 to the Morales).
Steve and Kim Morale built Action Collision from the ground up at its FM 720 location just west of Little Elm over 15 years ago. Kim recalls at the time of condemnation, Action Collision had eight to ten employees and operated out of an 8,000 square foot shop supporting not only their family, but their employees’ families. When TxDOT held public meetings and showed plans to expand FM 720, Steve and Kim understood the road needed to be widened to handle the ever-increasing traffic as Little Elm grew. TxDOT’s new right-of-way moved the FM 720 travel lanes much closer to their office and greatly restricted the work area between FM 720 and the service bays in the front of their building. In summary, “the new right-of-way dramatically impacted how we could utilize the improvements Steve and I built to be a successful collision repair shop. None of the State’s lawyers or experts ever understood or agreed that our property was dramatically affected by the new right-of-way being acquired. Steve and I felt very strongly that we would not let the State ‘run over us’ and we needed a condemnation lawyer. We turned to Donny Griffin and Vinson & Elkins.”
For Vinson & Elkins’ condemnation group, the Morale case represented a “win” for small business people who otherwise would likely not have prevailed. As Donny Griffin recalled, “our condemnation group was led for many years by Dixon Montague, who taught us not only how to fight for large clients on big cases, but when to stand up for the little guy. Steve and Kim Morale became an example of our lawyers fighting for the ‘little guy’ because it was the right thing to do.” Over the life of the case, Vinson & Elkins lawyers from the condemnation and appellate groups worked tirelessly in representing the Morales. Kim Morale said, “we could not have done it without Donny and the Vinson & Elkins team. Steve and I never dreamed how TxDOT, its contractors, and the State’s attorneys would treat us when the right-of-way acquisition process began. We always asked the State to treat us ‘fairly,’ but without Vinson & Elkins, that never would have been the end result.”
This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.