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Acierno v. State of Delaware

Delaware Supreme Court
643 A.2d 1328 (1994)


Frank Acierno (plaintiff) and Albert Marta together owned 400 acres of undeveloped land in Delaware. The land was located close to major roads that had begun to experience heavy congestion because of increasing commercial activity in the area. The State of Delaware (defendant) created a plan to realign a route in the area as a four-lane highway and to make other highway improvements that would alleviate traffic congestion. The realigned route would be constructed on about 60 acres of Acierno and Marta’s land, which the state planned to acquire. Acierno and Marta entered negotiations with the state for the land, offering to donate some of the land and sell the remainder that was needed for the improvements. The parties failed to reach any agreement, however. The state then began condemnation proceedings to acquire the land. Marta reached a settlement with the state and was dismissed from the condemnation action. The superior court held in a pretrial ruling that 18 acres had been donated but that Acierno was entitled to compensation for his half ownership of 41 acres. The state presented evidence that the highway improvements substantially increased the value of the land and claimed that the condemnation award should therefore be calculated at zero. Acierno claimed that the developments had greatly reduced the value of the land and that he was entitled to a condemnation award of $15 million. Acierno was awarded $266,000 as just compensation for his taken property. Acierno appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Walsh, J.)

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