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Wilmington Housing Authority v. Harris

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle County

December 18, 1952

HARRIS et al.

Page 519

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 520

Thomas Herlihy, Jr. and Morris Cohen, both of Wilmington, for plaintiff.

C. J. Killoran, of Wilmington, of Killoran & VanBrunt, for defendants.

HERRMANN, Judge, charged the Commissioners as follows: [1]

Page 521

The Wilmington Housing Authority, the plaintiff in this case, under the power of eminent domain conferred upon it by a Statute of this State, has taken certain land owned by the defendants, Edward M. Harris Jr. and Marian Harris, his wife. The property was taken for a proper public use. The estate or interest taken is the full fee simple title of the property, free and clear of all liens, encumbrances, charges and claims. The taking of the property was accomplished in accordance with the requirements of the law and, as to the propriety of the taking, there is no issue before you. The sole question before you is the [47 Del. 473] issue of just compensation to be paid by the Wilmington Housing Authority to Mr. and Mrs. Harris for their property. The Constitution of our State, art. 1, § 8, provides that no property shall be taken or applied to public use without compensation being made therefor. The determination of what that compensation should be is your duty and function in these proceedings.

In deciding the question before you, you are to be controlled wholly by the evidence presented in these proceedings, considered in the light of your view of the property and of the principles of law stated to you in these instructions.

There are certain applicable principles of law by which you are governed in making your determination.

The 'compensation' which is guaranteed by the Constitution is not defined in the constitutional provision. The term means a compensation which is just and fair both to the owner of the property taken and to the public represented by the condemning authority. Actually, the term constitutes the end result of your determination. In order to reach that end result, it is necessary that you apply certain standards or measures which have been recognized in the law as proper for the purpose. The just compensation to which Mr. and Mrs. Harris are entitled is the fair market value of the property at the time of the taking in view of all available uses and purposes of the property at that time. Accordingly, in this case, you must ascertain just compensation upon the basis of the fair market value of the property as of October 23, 1951, the date of the taking.

In the law of eminent domain, the words 'market value' are words of art, the formal definition of which has been attempted by many courts. Most simply stated, I think, market value is the price which would be agreed upon by a willing seller and a willing buyer under usual and ordinary circumstances, without any compulsion whatsoever upon the seller to sell or upon the buyer to buy. Market value means the fair value of the property as between one who wants to purchase and one who wants to sell. It is not what could be obtained for the property [47 Del. 474] under peculiar circumstances when a greater than fair price could be obtained. It is not a speculative value, nor a value obtained from the necessities of either the buyer or the seller. Market value is what the property would bring at a fair sale when one party wanted to sell and the other wanted to buy.

In ascertaining market value you may consider the value of the property in view of all of its available uses and purposes as of October 23, 1951. You may consider the best and most valuable use for which the property was reasonably adaptable as of October 23, 1951, not necessarily as the measure of value, but to the full extent that the prospect of demand for such use affected the market value while the property was privately held. In other words, if the possibility or probability of the land being put to its highest and best use enhanced the market value of the property, then such enhancement may be taken into account in determining just compensation. The owner of property taken by eminent domain is entitled to have considered, in a determination of just compensation, not only the general and naturally adapted uses of the property but also any special value due to its adaptability for a particular or special use. However, no consideration should be given to remote, imaginary or purely conjectural uses.

In determining market value of the property, you should not consider any

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