Va. Supreme Court rules in favor of landowner in VDOT fight

FILE PHOTO // Janet and Jim Ramsey receive the Virginia's Supreme Court's decision, ruling in their favor April 16, 2015.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Virginia Beach couple on a property case involving the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Jim and Janet Ramsey got the phone call from their attorney early Thursday morning. “We won,” Jim Ramsey said with tears in his eyes. His wife also began to cry.

Photos: Eminent Domain Challenge

The emotion comes after a six-year fight against VDOT.  In 2009, VDOT took the Ramsey’s land to make room for the London Bridge off-ramp from Interstate 264. It was property that’s been in the Ramsey family for almost a century.

“It’s changed so much with an off-ramp coming through, but it’s still home,” Janet Ramsey said. “It will never be the same.”

VDOT initially gave the couple $248,000 for the land, but the Ramseys thought it was worth more. In fact, they had it appraised at $392,000. So when the Ramseys refused to settle and took the matter to court, VDOT came back and said the land was only worth $92,000.

“I thought it was a joke,” Jim Ramsey said. “I thought they were kidding.”

When the case went to court in Virginia Beach, state law allowed VDOT to not tell the jury about its original $250,000 appraisal. Jury members were only told that VDOT valued the land at $90,000.

“I’m really disappointed that the Department of Transportation’s officials are pulling these sneaky tricks on citizens,” Ramsey said. “It is just unbelievable.”

That case ended with the jury siding with the Ramseys: they decided VDOT’s appraisal was too low. But because the court didn’t know about the initial $248,000 offer, the jury decided the land was only worth $234,000. Then VDOT threatened to make the couple pay back the difference between the verdict and what VDOT had already given them for the land ($248,000).

DOCUMENT: Supreme Court of Virginia orders new trial

The Ramseys took the case to the state supreme court, asking the justices to rule that all the evidence be heard at trial. On Thursday, the justices unanimously agreed — the Ramsey’s case will now go to trial again, this time with all of the evidence.

“It’s just elation, because you ask somebody to believe in you and you ask somebody to trust you and we lost at every stage until we got it up to the Supreme Court,” said attorney Jeremy Hopkins. “It was vindication.”

“This unfair treatment, it has got to stop,” Jim Ramsey said. “The supreme court, the fact that they were willing to see this case, that let me know they knew there was a problem, and hopefully we can take care of this problem.”

Following the court’s ruling, a VDOT spokesperson said, “VDOT and the Commissioner are reviewing the court’s ruling to determine how to proceed.”

There is no word on when a trial date will be set.

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