Utah Department of Transportation v. Target Corp.

February 16, 2018

Utah Court of Appeals

February 8, 2018

2018 UT App 24 (Click for text of opinion)

***Subsequent history: Further proceedings in this case resulted in an opinion by the Utah Supreme Court. Please see UDOT v. Target Corp., 2020 UT 10.

The Utah Court of Appeals upheld a jury award in favor of Target Corporation and Weingarten/Miller/American Fork LLC (collectively, the “Owners”) of more than $2.3 million in severance damages against the Utah Department of Transportation (“UDOT”).

UDOT acquired a small portion of the Owners’ property that formed part of the Alpine Valley Shopping Center (the “Shopping Center”) as part of its project to redesign the I-15 interchange at Main Street in American Fork. UDOT built a small part of this enormous interchange on the land it acquired from the Owners. More specifically, UDOT used this property to place dirt to support a retaining wall that supported the northbound on-ramp at the reconstructed interchange. In addition, UDOT closed a right-out only exit from the Shopping Center onto Main Street as part of the interchange project. The Owners claimed that they were entitled to severance damages for the loss of value to the Shopping Center because the new interchange obstructed the view of the Shopping Center and because of the loss of the right-out exit onto Main Street. The jury agreed and awarded the Owners over $2.3 million in severance damages. UDOT appealed the award and argued that the Owners had not shown the necessary causal link between the taking of their property and the awarded damages.

The Utah Court of Appeals upheld the jury award of severance damages. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in allowing the Owners’ claims for severance damages from the loss of visibility incurred by the interchange to proceed to trial because 1) a view-impairing structure does not need to be entirely built on the land taken by the condemning agency to be presumed to have caused any severance damages to the remaining parcel; 2) the entire interchange, as opposed to its individual component parts, served as the view-blocking structure for determining the severance damages; and 3) the interchange was partially built on the land acquired by UDOT because some of the dirt supporting an interchange retaining wall sits on the land UDOT acquired from the Owners. The court of appeals also concluded that the Owners had the option to present their severance damage claims in a general manner with evidence of the property’s value before the acquisition and then after the acquisition. The Owners did not need to separate out the specific damages attributable to each source of the severance damages.