Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of Virginia Beach couple in land value fight

Posted at 3:24 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-16 18:15:57-04

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR) - The Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday in favor of a Virginia Beach couple in an ongoing fight over the value of their land taken by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

In 2009, Jim and Janet Ramsey had land taken from them as VDOT made way for the London Bridge off-ramp on Interstate 264.

Under a "quick take," VDOT gave the couple $248,707 for the piece of property they took, a value that the Ramsey's declined to accept.

When the matter went to trial, VDOT presented a new appraisal valuing the land taken at just $92,127.

The original appraisal and offer was not allowed to be included in that trial, one that ended with the jury finding "just compensation for the landowners' property to be $234,032."

That meant Jim and Janet Ramsey had to repay $14,675 plus 3% interest.

"It’s really weird. I mean first of all, they take my property. Then they take my money back. Now I have to go to court to get justice. It’s just unbelievable," Jim Ramsey told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo Thursday.

The couple appealed the Virginia Beach Circuit Court case to the Virginia Supreme Court asking that all the evidence be presented to a jury.

Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jim and Janet Ramsey, writing in their opinion "the trial court erred in finding that the Commissioner's statement valuing the property at $500,000 was an offer to settle and, as such, was inadmissible at trial."

The opinion goes on to say, "We will reverse the judgement of the trial court and we will remand the matter for further proceedings."

Janet Ramsey said she was relieved when the ruling came down Thursday morning.

"Hallelujah! God has answered our prayers. Let’s move forward and go back into court and tell the real story."

A spokeswoman for VDOT issued the following statement to NewsChannel 3:

"VDOT and the Commissioner are reviewing the court's ruling to determine how to proceed."

Jeremy Hopkins, a Norfolk attorney who has been representing the Ramseys, says he is hopeful the matter will be resolved outside of court.

"It’s gone on long enough and we hope the state will act reasonably and get this resolved," he told Todd Corillo.

However, Hopkins says they are prepared to go back to court if necessary.

"When it goes to trial again, if it does, the jury will get to hear all of the evidence," he said. "For years, VDOT has engaged in this tactic in the shadows of the courtroom and this decision now means there will be sunshine in the courtroom."

Jim Ramsey is hopeful the Virginia Supreme Court ruling will have broader impacts than just his case.

"I hope this will be a victory for every property owner in Virginia."

Click here to read the entire ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court