May 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Possessed the Power to Condemn an Absolute Fee Interest in Land, Including Mineral, Oil, and Gas Interests

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Steamboat Lake Water and Sanitation District v. Halvorson on January 6, 2011.

Eminent Domain—Condemnation—Appeal—Bond—Defeasible Fee Interest—Remainder Interest—Attorney Fees.

Respondents Vance and Sharon Halvorson challenged the trial court’s order granting title to the Steamboat Lake Water and Sanitation District (District) pursuant to its eminent domain powers. The order was affirmed.

The Halvorsons owned certain real property, located within the District’s boundaries and known as Lot 78. The trial court granted title to the District pursuant to its eminent domain powers, and described the title as an absolute fee “free of all rights of reversion or reversionary interests, including but not limited to the possibility of reverter and rights of entry for conditions broken.”

The District argued that the Halvorsons’ appeal should be dismissed because they accepted the benefits of the judgment by withdrawing the $90,000 bond. A party is prohibited from both accepting the benefits of a judgment and prosecuting an appeal, but not when the adjudication of that appeal would not put in issue the party’s right to the entirety of the benefit he has accepted. Here, the withdrawal of the bond precluded the Halvorsons from challenging the title description’s failure to exclude gas, oil, and mineral interests. However, they were permitted to appeal whether the interest passed was a defeasible or absolute fee.

The Halvorsons argued that the court’s description of the title is erroneous because the District was empowered only to condemn a defeasible fee interest that excluded mineral, oil, and gas interests. The Halvorsons contended that they still own a remainder interest in their land, which consists of the mineral, oil, and gas interests, and either a reversionary interest or a right of entry for condition broken if the District ever abandons the property or attempts to sell it to a private party. The District possessed the power to condemn an absolute fee interest in land. Because the District explicitly sought, and paid for, an absolute fee interest in Lot 78, the trial court did not err in so describing the District’s title.

The Halvorsons also argued that the court erred in refusing to award attorney fees pursuant to CRS § 38-1-122. However, the District was authorized by law to acquire the property, and the Halvorsons did not prove that the award equaled or exceeded 130 percent of the condemnor’s last written offer to purchase the property or interest. The order was affirmed.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries by the Colorado Court of Appeals on January 6, 2011, can be found here.

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