Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. 2.63 Acres of Land in Suwannee County Florida et al

Filing 55

ORDER granting 49 Motion for Default Judgment; denying as moot 52 Motion for Summary Judgment. Sabal Trail shall deposit into the Court registry the sum of $4,200.00 as just compensation. The Clerk shall close the file. See Order for details. Signed by Judge Marcia Morales Howard on 4/13/2017. (JHC)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA OCALA DIVISION SABAL TRAIL TRANSMISSION, LLC, Plaintiff, vs. Case No.: 3:16-cv-295-J-34JBT +/- 2.63 ACRES OF LAND IN SUWANNEE COUNTY FLORIDA, ESTATE OF SALLIE MAE BROWN, et al., Defendants. / ORDER This case is before the Court on Plaintiff Sabal Trail’s “Motion for Final Summary Default Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum of Law.” (Doc. 49, Motion). No Defendant has filed an answer, appeared, or otherwise presented any claims or defenses in this case. On May 25, 2016, the Court granted Sabal Trail’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 4) and Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 5). The May 25 Order (Doc. 24) established that Sabal Trail had the right to condemn the subject easement pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 717f of the Natural Gas Act, as well as the right to take immediate possession of the property upon posting bond. On June 23, 2016, Sabal Trail posted bond and obtained possession of the property. (Doc. 26). The only outstanding issue is how much compensation Sabal Trail owes Defendants for the easement. Sabal Trail has appended to the Motion a declaration by Chad Durrance, a licensed appraiser with 25 years’ experience. (Doc. 49-1). Durrance 1 states, under penalty of perjury, that he has appraised the value of the permanent and temporary workplace easements, and has determined that the easements are worth $2,900.00 and $1,300.00, respectively, for a total value of $4,200.00. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-8). Nothing in the record contradicts this valuation. Sabal Trail served the defendants either personally or by publication pursuant to Rule 71.1(d)(3)(B), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but no party responded. As such, on September 26, 2016, the Clerk of Court entered clerk’s defaults with respect to each defendant. (Docs. 36-47). Sabal Trail has conducted a diligent search for any other persons who may have an interest in the property, but it has not identified any other such person or party. (Doc. 49 at ¶ 9). Pursuant to Rule 71.1, “the failure to so serve an answer constitutes consent to the taking and to the court’s authority to proceed with the action and fix the compensation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 71.1(d)(2)(A)(vi). “When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Following the entry of a clerk’s default, the Court may enter a default judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2). The Court has determined that Sabal Trail is entitled to a default judgment. In the absence of any appearance by a Defendant or a conflicting representation regarding valuation, the Court accepts Sabal Trail’s evidence of the appraisal, which establishes that the easement is worth $4,200.00. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED: 2 1. Plaintiff Sabal Trail’s “Motion for Final Summary Default Judgment” (Doc. 49) is GRANTED. 2. Plaintiff’s “Motion for Final Summary Judgment of Condemnation” (Doc. 52) is DENIED AS MOOT. 3. Sabal Trail shall deposit into the Court Registry the sum of $4,200.00 as just compensation. 4. The Clerk shall place into the Registry Funds the amount of $4,200.00 in an interest-bearing account. 5. The Clerk shall assess the administrative registry fee as authorized by the Judicial Conference of the United States. 6. Upon deposit of the foregoing amount of just compensation, the Clerk shall enter a Final Default Judgment providing that: (i) ownership and title of the easement rights related to Parcel FL-SU-132.000, as defined in the Notice of Condemnation (Doc. 1-5), shall vest in Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC; and (ii) Sabal Trail and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company shall be released from their previously posted bond (Doc. 26). 7. The Clerk shall close the file. DONE AND ORDERED at Jacksonville, Florida this 13th day of April, 2017. Lc 19 Copies: Counsel of record 3

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