Seeking Just Compensation
We represented David Geise, who lived alone in an attractive old wood–heated farmhouse on Newville Road in rural Jefferson County, Wisconsin. He had retreated to the family farmstead after his time as a medic in Viet Nam. The farm had an oak tree that took root when George Washington was President, a bee–hive, a brook, a classic tiled silo, and, beyond the pastures, groves of oaks and pines along Newville Road. Mr. Geise raised llamas in the pastures and barns, went fishing with his friends, and lived a generally quiet life. His homestead was probably the prettiest location traversed by Newville Road, which was a designated bike path because of its rustic beauty. In 2008 American Transmission Company (ATC) secured regulatory permission to route high voltage transmission line along Newville Road, which would wind for about a mile through Mr. Geise’s property. Mr. Geise’s appraiser thought the transmission line impacts, which removed trees replaced them with visual blight and the hazards and nuisances of the transmission line, and made the historic silo unusable, caused $115,000.00 of loss and damage to Mr. Geise. Under the law, ATC was supposed to figure out a fair amount of money to pay to Mr. Geise as compensation for the effects of the transmission line. The utility company sent out an appraiser to look at the property, and Mr. Geise later related the conversation during a jury trial:
Q: And did you have occasion to meet with Mr. MacWilliams at your property?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Was that before or after he did the appraisal?
Q: What happened when Mr. MacWilliams came to your property to do the appraisal for American Transmission Company?
A: The first thing he did when he got out of his car, he looked around and he said, “I don’t see any damages12 here,” which I thought was very inappropriate for an appraiser.
Q: And what did he say about your house?
A: He said that the way it looked he thought it should be burnt.
During a three–day trial, utility appraisers testified that Mr. Geise should be paid about $10,100 to $10,600 for the harm. After five hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Mr. Geise $107,173.00. ATC contended the jury acted improperly in making the award and appealed to a higher court to have it overturned. For Mr. Geise, we asked that ATC be required to pay interest on the verdict, which the court denied, so we also appealed. The Court of Appeals ruled in Mr. Geise’s favor on both issues. The decision is available here.