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Condemnation Procedures

Reference Number: MTAS-1268
Reviewed Date: 09/28/2023

There are a variety of condemnation procedures that have been established for municipalities and counties,[1] but those used most commonly are the traditional “jury of view” procedure, (T.C.A. §§ 29-16-101 et seq.) and the supplementary procedure. T.C.A. §§ 29-17-901 et seq. These statutory provisions normally permit the condemner to select the procedure of its choice from the available options. [2] This manual will discuss only the traditional “jury of view” procedure and the supplementary procedure, since the same principles generally are applicable to the other procedural schemes available to counties and municipalities.

T.C.A. § 6-54-122 establishes special procedures to be followed by a municipality in taking unincorporated property in any county in which the municipality was not located before May 1, 1995. The municipality must notify the county in writing, and the county must approve the taking. The county’s disapproval may not be arbitrary or capricious and may be reviewed by statutory writ of certiorari. These provisions do not apply to takings necessary to provide utility service, certain takings by metropolitan governments, or takings relative to airports or projects sponsored jointly by a municipality and a county.

The condemner seeking to acquire an interest under the power of eminent domain must first file a lawsuit to accomplish this objective. In the lawsuit, the court will be presented with two issues: (1) whether the condemner has the right to take the property, [3] and (2) the amount of just compensation to which the property owner is entitled. [4]

Under the “jury of view” and the supplementary procedures, the condemnation action must be filed in the circuit court in which the property is located. T.C.A. §§ 29-16-104; 29-17-902. Thus, the circuit court has exclusive jurisdiction over eminent domain proceedings. [5] Once condemnation proceedings have been filed in the circuit court, the court may resolve matters that are incidental to the condemnation case, such as contract [6] or boundary [7] disputes involving the condemned property. The only exception to this rule involves cases that were properly brought in chancery court to obtain injunctions or other equitable relief. [8] The chancery court has been found to have jurisdiction to award appropriate relief under the eminent domain statutes in cases that were initially brought to obtain injunctive relief, [9] to void a contract, [10] or to reform a deed. [11]

[1] For example, special procedures have been provided for the acquisition of property for certain municipal projects (§ 7-31-107 et seq.), for municipal housing authorities (§ 29-17-501 et seq.), for the opening, changing or closing of county roads (§ 54-10-201 et seq.) and for municipal or county schools (§ 49-6-2001 et seq.).

[2] Williams v. McMinn County, 209 Tenn. 236, 352 S.W. 2d 430 (1961); Ragland v. Davidson County Board of Education, 203 Tenn. 317, 312 S.W.2d 855 (1958); City of Knoxville v. Heth, 186 Tenn. 321, 210 S.W.2d 326 (1948); Town of Cookeville v. Farley, 171 Tenn. 260, 102 S.W.2d 56 (1937); Derryberry v. Beck,153 Tenn. 220, 280 S.W. 1014 (1925); City of Chattanooga v. State, 151 Tenn. 691, 272 S.W. 432 (1924); Department of Highways and Public Works v. Gamble, 18 Tenn. App. 95, 73 S.W.2d 175 (1934). But see Baker v. Nashville Housing Authority, 219 Tenn. 201, 408 S.W.2d 651 (1966) (municipal housing authority may not utilize "bulldozer/quick take" procedure).

[3] See section The Right to Take.

[4] See section Just Compensation.

[5] Cox v. State, 217 Tenn. 644, 399 S.W.2d 776 (1965); Hombra v. Smith, 159 Tenn. 308, 17 S.W.2d 921 (1929); Scruggs v. Town of Sweetwater, 29 Tenn. App. 357, 196 S.W.2d 717 (1946).

[6] E.R. & R.I. Dixon v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co., 115 Tenn. 362, 89 S.W. 322 (1905).

[7] City of Maryville v. Waters, 207 Tenn. 213, 338 S.W.2d. 608 (1907).

[8] H.J.L., L.P. v. Nashville & Eastern R.R. Corp., 1999 WL 499 744 (Tenn. App. 1999); Knox County v. Moncier, 224 Tenn. 361, 455 S.W.2d. 153 (1970); Evans v. Wheeler, 209 Tenn. 40, 348 S.W.2d 500 (1961); Chambers v. Chattanooga Union Railway Co., 130 Tenn. 459, 171 S.W. 84 (1914); McLain v. State, 59 Tenn. App. 529, 442 S.W.2d 637 (1968).

[9] Knox County v. Moncier, supra; Evans v. Wheeler, supra.

[10] Chambers v. Chattanooga Union Railroad Co., supra.

[11] McLain v. State, supra.