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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In the spring of 2003, the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) began condemnation proceedings on property located in Houston near the intersection of North Post Oak and Interstate Highway (IH) 610 as part of the IH-610 expansion. Three adult siblings, appellees Teri Reina, James Reina and Catherine Danna (the Reinas) owned this property. The property was divided into three separate parcels, with each sibling owning an interest in each parcel. The property, consisting of a total of 2.966 acres, included a restaurant, a catering business, a veterinary clinic and two billboards. A DOT panel of special commissioners held condemnation proceedings in July and August 2003. The commissioners assessed $3,250,901, $2,640,379 and $1,507,135 as the damages to be paid by the state to the Reinas for the three parcels. The Reinas filed objections to the findings of the special commissioners’ awards, triggering a trial de novo in the trial court below. DOT deposited the funds for condemnation into the registry of the court. The Reinas withdrew the funds shortly thereafter. The state filed a motion to consolidate the three cases for the purpose of valuation and trial. The trial court granted the motion. On the day of the final pretrial conference, just before the trial de novo was to begin, the state filed a motion to exclude any testimony of the Reinas’ expert witnesses David Bolton and Tom Edmonds in reference to billboard sales more than five years old. Eventually, the trial court declined to remove these exhibits from the trial evidence and later admitted testimony regarding the billboard sales. Before the jury trial commenced, the trial court and the parties anticipated that the trial would be completed in four days. When, during trial, it became apparent that the trial would take longer, the trial court requested that each side’s attorneys state how much time would be needed to complete the trial. After conferring with the parties, the court imposed time limits as to the total amount of time each side would have to present evidence and closing argument. When the trial court imposed these limits, the Reinas already had presented some of their case. As a result of the time limitations, the state only could give a brief closing argument. The state unsuccessfully sought three hours of extra time. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Reinas for $9,398,532. The state argued the trial court abused its discretion by imposing time limitations on the parties in the middle of trial and by admitting evidence of remote comparable sales used by appraisers for the landowners in computing the fair market value of the condemned land. HOLDING:Affirmed. Because the state failed to voice any objection to the trial court’s time limitations when imposed in the middle of trial, the state waived its complaints, the court held. The trial court is vested with great discretion over the conduct of the trial, the court stated, and this discretion includes its intervention to “maintain control in the courtroom, to expedite the trial, and to prevent what it considers to be a waste of time.” In this case, the trial court exercised its discretion on the fourth day of trial when it asked the parties to reach an agreement on how much time each side needed to conclude the trial. The trial court, the court noted, held the state to its prior agreement in denying the request for an additional three hours. The state presented no extenuating circumstances, such as a change in trial strategy, newly discovered witnesses or evidence, or anything else that was unanticipated at the time it agreed to the self-imposed time limitation. The trial court also considered the effect that an extension would have on the jury, because the trial court earlier had informed the jurors when they could expect their jury service to end. Taking into consideration all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the trial court’s decision, the court did not find that the trial court’s adherence to its time limits was arbitrary or unreasonable; thus, the court concluded that the trial court’s refusal of the state’s request for additional time was not an abuse of discretion. As for admission of evidence regarding the remote comparable sales, the court recognized that Texas law generally discourages the use of remote comparable sales. But the court noted the limited number of comparable sales near the Reinas’ property and concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the 1995 and 1996 billboard sales. OPINION:Frost, J.; Anderson, Edelman and Frost, J.J.

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