My Stipulated Eminent Domain Judgment Went Awry, and You're Telling Me I Can't Appeal!
Posted in Court Decisions

Most eminent domain cases don't proceed to a full-blown jury trial.  Rather, most get settled somewhere along the way, and those settlements often come in the form of a stipulated judgment.  In most of those cases, nothing more happens.  The agency pays the judgment, obtains a final order of condemnation, and all parties move on with their lives.

But sometimes, the judgment itself isn't the end of the story.  And in City of Gardena v. Rikuo Corporation (Feb. 7, 2011), the parties still had to deal with ongoing environmental remediation issues long after their stipulated judgment was entered.  By stipulation, they left $750,000 on deposit with the Court and authorized the Court to retain jurisdiction over the use of those funds, with the idea being that the city could apply to the Court for withdrawals to cover the costs of the ongoing remediation.  Any money left over once the remediation was complete would go to the former owner. 

But something went wrong, and a dispute arose over the city's efforts to withdraw funds for the remediation.  When the Court allowed the withdrawal over the owner's objection, the owner appealed, and both parties went off to brief the issue on the merits before the Court of Appeal.

Then the Court of Appeal raised an interesting issue:  was the post-judgment order even appealable?  It requested supplemental briefing on the issue - and the city now jumped on the bandwagon, claiming the order was not appealable. 

The Court agreed.  It held that post-judgment orders are only appealable if the underlying judgment is itself appealable.  And, since the parties had stipulated to the judgment in order to settle the case, the judgment was not subject to appeal:

[T]he parties in this case consented to a final judgment that is not appealable as a matter of law.

While this situation does not come up that often, it provides a major cautionary tail for anyone who plans to stipulate to a judgment in condemnation where they know there may be post-judgment issues that could generate disputes. 

We'll have more on this case shortly, but for now, we just wanted to let people know it's out there.  And if you want to read more about it immediately, Robert Thomas has a post about it on his blog, "Cal Ct App: No Appeal From Stipulated Condemnation Judgment."

  • Rick E. Rayl

    Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues.  His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes.  His public ...

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