Understanding Eminent Domain


The founder of the Bellamy Law Firm, Howell V. “Skeets” Bellamy, Jr., and his partner, Robert S. Shelton, have represented many South Carolina property owners in the defense of eminent domain or condemnation actions filed against them by the government. When the South Carolina Department of Transportation (“SCDOT”), for instance, takes private property to build highways, the attorneys who represent the government have access to the engineering staff and legal staff at the SCDOT headquarters in Columbia. They will also have access to an appraisal review staff and independent appraisers hired by the SCDOT. The statute requires the government to provide the landowner a copy of the highway plans and the SCDOT appraisal so the landowner can make an informed decision as to whether to accept the amount of money offered by the government for their property. In order for the government to start eminent domain proceedings, a lawsuit must be filed against the landowner and the amount of money the government determines to be just compensation must be deposited with the Clerk of Court for the County where the property lies.

Once a condemnation action has been filed, the landowner may either challenge the government’s authority to condemn, or challenge the government’s determination of the amount of money deposited as just compensation. In either event, it is important for landowner’s to speak with an attorney who understands the details of the appraisal process and the eminent domain litigation process prior to making any decisions, or signing any documents, from a government representative.