A Harrison County jury in Gulfport, Mississippi, recently returned a verdict in excess of one million dollars for Smith Phillips' client, Penny Rodrique, in a Katrina eminent domain case. For more than twenty-five years prior to Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Rodrique operated her business, Mississippi Coast Fireworks, on her property located at the base of the Bay St. Louis Bridge in Pass Christian, Mississippi. When the Highway 90 bridge was destroyed by the hurricane, the Mississippi Transportation Commission decided to relocate and elevate the bay bridge requiring the taking of a portion of Ms. Rodrique's property.
Before the MTC taking, Ms. Rodrique's property consisted of approximately an acre and the storm-damaged remnants of a 4,000 square foot metal building used in her fireworks business. MTC took approximately two thirds of the property and the building remnants, leaving Ms. Rodrique only a small triangular shaped parcel. Prior to the taking, the property, the first commercial property coming off the bridge into Harrison County, had high visibility from all directions and easy access from Highway 90. The small remnant left after the taking had limited visibility and no direct access to the highway.
MTC initially offered Ms. Rodrique $416,700 as compensation for her property, including the building remnants and damage to her remaining property. Ms. Rodrique retained Smith Phillips' partner, Paul Scott, of Hernando to represent her in the case. The landowner's expert real estate appraiser testified just compensation, including damages, was over a million dollars. Scott tried the case in the Special Court of Eminent Domain in Harrison County, Mississippi. The jury returned a verdict for the full amount sought by SPMS&N partner Paul Scott — $1,136,745.