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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In Exxon Pipeline Co. v. Zwahr, (2002), the Texas Supreme Court reversed a condemnation award, holding that the testimony of the landowners’ expert was irrelevant and inadmissible, because he “relied on [the] condemnation in establishing a separate economic unit and in assigning a value to that unit,” and “failed to apply the before-and-after valuation method, which would have required him to evaluate the [easement] as a proportionate part of the entire [tract].” Following the Zwahr decision, the 1st Court of Appeals reversed the condemnation award in this case, which was partly based on similar valuation testimony by the same expert as in Zwahr and rendered judgment based on the valuation evidence offered by the condemnor. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. In reaching its holding, the court noted that petitioners Donnie Bulanek, Jacko Garrett and Nancy Garrett argued that this case was factually distinguishable from Zwahr. In that case, Exxon Pipeline Co. condemned a 50-foot-wide strip across the Zwahrs’ 49-acre cotton farm for a pipeline easement. The 1.01-acre strip paralleled an existing pipeline easement for much of its route, and 82 percent of the strip overlapped the existing easement. In this case, the court stated in contrast, WesTTex 66 Pipeline Co. condemned a 50-foot-wide strip across a 227-acre portion of petitioners’ 414-acre tract of undeveloped land for a pipeline easement. The 3.915-acre strip paralleled or largely overlapped seven existing pipeline easements. Petitioners’ experts Brad Kangieser and Tom Edmonds testified that the easement had a highest and best use as a pipeline easement. Implicit in the experts’ testimony, the court stated, is that each expert considered the 3.915 acres to be a separate economic unit. In addition, the court stated, Kangieser and Edmonds each testified that he had not used the before-and-after valuation method in appraising the property acquired by WesTTex. Both experts appraised the 3.915-acre easement without reference to the parent tract. Petitioners argue that WesTTex’s easement, unlike Exxon’s easement in Zwahr, was part of a pipeline corridor that comprised a separate economic unit distinct from the surrounding tract prior to WesTTex’s condemnation. But even if a pipeline corridor could be a separate economic unit without improvements or characteristics setting it apart from surrounding property, petitioners’ experts’ testimony was no evidence of such a unit in this case. Petitioners argued that the case should be remanded for a new trial in the interest of justice in part because they presented their case in reliance on the court of appeals’ opinion in Zwahr and would have proceeded differently had they had the benefit of our decision in that case. In the circumstances presented, the court agreed with the petitioners. OPINION:Per curiam.

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