Lewis Babcock founding partner Keith Babcock is again listed in “Legal Elite of the Midlands,” marking the fourth year he’s been included in the annual guide to the area’s top attorneys.
Keith is being honored in the practice area of business litigation. A highly skilled attorney with more than 40 years’ experience, he focuses his practice almost solely on litigation. He concentrates on business disputes, professional negligence and eminent domain.
His reputation in the latter field in particular is outstanding. He has conducted Continuing Legal Education seminars on eminent domain across the state and the country. Keith is the only South Carolina attorney listed in “Owners’ Counsel of America,” a national eminent domain organization.
He has represented clients in some of the most significant property rights decisions in South Carolina. He has fought for clients in all levels of state and federal courts in South Carolina, working to try to win fair compensation when a government agency takes their land through condemnation.
About Legal Elite
A publication of Columbia Business Monthly, “Legal Elite of the Midlands” each year honors top lawyers in more than two dozen practice areas. The selection process starts with a nomination from a peer. A poll of the active lawyers in the Midlands decides the final lists.
“The government must pay ‘Just Compensation’ for taking my property, it’s my constitutional right! But what is it, really?”
By David Paavola
When the government takes your property by eminent domain (or condemnation), it must pay just compensation. Just compensation is a constitutional requirement. The just compensation clause is tucked away at the end of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, following more well-known rights such as the prohibition of double jeopardy, the right against self-incrimination, and due process. It says, simply, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
As in beauty, just compensation often rests in the eye of the beholder. I see a patch of dirt, overgrowth, and sparse trees. Developer Jones sees convenient highway access, good drainage, and a future anchor tenant with outparcels. Who is right? Well, it depends.
Just compensation has been described as the property’s fair market value. Fair market value, in turn, has been described as that value a willing buyer will pay and a willing seller accept, where neither party is under compulsion to enter the transaction. Slightly clearer.
Now add to the mix that a landowner is not stuck valuing the property at its current use, but is instead entitled to receive fair market value based on the property’s highest and best use. Highest and best use is the most productive use of the land that is physically possible, legally permissible, and financially feasible. This brings to mind the cartoon scene of the holdout house situated amongst skyscrapers. The value of the holdout house, or rather the land underneath the house once you knock it down, is not residential but skyscraper land, presumably much more valuable.
The equation gets even more complicated when only a portion of your property is taken and the question is not only the highest and best use of the property taken, but also the negative impact of the lost property on your remaining land. Today, the best use of my land is development into a gas station. If after the government widens the road and takes a portion of my property, a gas station will no longer fit and next best use is less valuable, then I’ve lost market value and need to be compensated for this loss.
Even when the government and landowner agree on the highest and best use of a property, their values can vary widely. For example, if the government takes a strip of land along the roadway and changes the property’s road access from full access to right-in right-out but does not attribute any lost value to this change of access, its valuation may greatly understate the true market value impact. Transforming your convenience store into an inconvenience store will certainly have a market value impact beyond simply the loss of a few feet of land along the roadway. A landowner needs to capture the full amount of lost market value in its valuation.
To sum it up, just compensation equates to the fair market value of the land taken plus impact to the remaining land. Fair market value is based on the property’s highest and best use. Preparing and presenting your position on fair market value is the key to making the most out of the difficult position the government put you in when it decided to take your property for the public good.
When the government takes your property by eminent domain, you are entitled to receive its fair market value. The complexity comes in understanding the property’s true market value, grasping the full impact of the public project on your property’s highest and best use, and then in preparing a thoughtful presentation to the jury who will ultimately decide how much to award you as just compensation.
These complexities show why it is important to team up with experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel that can help you navigate the condemnation process. Attorneys at Lewis Babcock have years of condemnation experience and are here to help.
An experienced litigator who combines business skills with legal savvy, David Paavola has become the newest partner at Lewis Babcock.
His practice focuses on eminent domain and condemnation, complex business disputes, legal malpractice and more. He also represents clients in appeals.
“Over the years since David joined us as an associate, we’ve been impressed with his legal acumen and with his commitment to our clients,” firm founding partner Keith Babcock said. “We are very pleased to now call him ‘partner.’”
Paavola earned a Juris Doctor at the University of South Carolina School of Law after a career in the financial services industry. He also worked as an analyst at an investment management company before pursuing the law. Before entering private practice with Lewis Babcock, he served as a South Carolina Assistant Attorney General in Consumer Protection & Antitrust.
He holds a bachelor’s of business administration degree in financial services and planning from Baylor University. He graduated magna cum laude from law school after serving as Editor in Chief for the South Carolina Law Review.
Paavola has earned distinction as a South Carolina Super Lawyers Rising Star yearly since 2019. That honor is limited to 2.5% of attorneys who have practiced 10 years or less in the state. He also holds an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, a designation that recognizes strong legal abilities and high ethical standards.
Joseph Berry, an attorney at Lewis Babcock in Columbia, SC, has completed the SC Bar Leadership Academy. He was among only 17 attorneys statewide admitted to the highly selective program.
The academy’s goal is to provide attorneys with the training and awareness necessary to give back to their profession and their community. The program focuses on relationship building, nurturing principled leadership and increasing awareness of professional, ethical and community service issues.
The Leadership Academy class meets monthly for five months, with each program focusing on a different topic. Originally the Class of 2019-20, the group completed the course this spring due to COVID.
“I am very grateful for this opportunity to make these deep connections within the legal profession and within our community. They’re connections that will last a lifetime,” Berry said. “I’m also extremely thankful that the Bar makes this commitment to its young lawyers.”
A Columbia native and graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, Berry’s practice at Lewis Babcock focuses on eminent domain. He also represents clients in business disputes and appellate matters. Before joining Lewis Babcock, he served for four years at the Solicitor’s Office for the Fifth Judicial Circuit.
He’s deeply involved in the community as well, serving on the Pawmetto Lifeline Board of Trustees and the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center Board of Directors.
Lewis Babcock LLP is pleased to announce that two attorneys in the firm have been selected to the 2021 South Carolina Super Lawyers List as top attorneys. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.
Lewis Babcock attorneys included in South Carolina Super Lawyers in 2021 are:
Keith Babcock – Business Litigation (2008-2021)
David Paavola – Eminent Domain (Rising Star) (2019-2021)
Babcock has been listed in Super Lawyers since its inception in 2008 making this his 14th consecutive year being listed in the publication.
Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area.
WHEN A GOVERNMENT PROJECT FORCES YOUR BUSINESS TO MOVE
At times, government projects can have the unfortunate result of forcing businesses to relocate. Fortunately, state or federal assistance is often made available to help defray moving and related expenses. This is called relocation assistance. However, as is often the case in the law, the good news comes wrapped in regulations and limitations that can be confusing to navigate. This comment discusses the basics of business relocation assistance in South Carolina.
“Location, Location, Location” For businesses that depend on catching the motorist’s eye, drop-in traffic, convenience, or easy access, it’s “location, location, location.” Locating along a main artery in a busy commercial or retail district near a growing population may be the exact formula for creating a successful business. At the same time, it is also true that growth leads to traffic, traffic leads to strain on existing roadways, and strain on existing roadways leads to government projects to expand those roadways.
Where road frontage was once your greatest asset, now it could put your business at risk of having to relocate because the future roadway will be running right through your existing building or parking lot. When that happens, it is fair to ask if the government, after forcing you to move, has any responsibility to pay for that move. While it was not always the case historically, the answer today is that when a government project displaces your business, the government bears the financial responsibility to help you move—with limitations, of course.
What Assistance Is Available? South Carolina has a relocation assistance statute that adopts the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act for all government projects regardless of whether state or federal dollars are paying for the project. The principal source of information on relocation assistance in South Carolina is the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s publicly available Relocation Assistance Manual. There are four categories of expenses that are typically covered for business moves:
Your replacement location may be in need of repair or it may not exactly meet your business needs. When this is the case, reestablishment expenses can help cover items such as repairs or improvements to the replacement location, modifications to make the replacement location suitable for your business, or replacing worn surfaces like carper or paint. If your business decides not to relocate, or is unable to, you may be eligible for an in-lieu-of payment depending on how many other business locations you have and based on the average annual net earnings over the past two years. In-lieu-of payments are capped at $40,000.
There are many other contours of relocation assistance that are beyond the scope of this comment and that will vary based on your unique business.
The bad news is that government projects can force businesses to relocate. The good news, or slightly less bad news, is that the government typically pays for a number of these expenses.
Our firm has experience navigating the contours of relocation assistance and would be pleased to talk with you about your unique situation. Find out how Lewis Babcock L.L.P. can help.
For more frequently asked question related to condemnation see:
Non-profit organizations in the Midlands have been greatly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. While many have continued to provide services, the pandemic has negatively affected the ability to fundraise during this challenging time.
Central SC Habitat for Humanity has felt the impact after having to cancel their 2020 “More than a Home” Gala. “This event is normally our largest annual fundraiser,” said attorney David Paavola, who currently serves on the board of directors for the organization. “It has the potential to negatively affect operations for the remainder of our fiscal year.”
Even during a pandemic, Central SC Habitat has been able to:
Lewis Babcock is supporting the fundraiser with a matching donation up to $2,000. Friends of the firm are encouraged to consider making a donation and to include the firm name “Lewis Babcock” in the comment section so it will be marked for a matching contribution.
To contribute to the fundraiser, go to their GoFundMe page.
Lewis Babcock L.L.P. is pleased to announce their support of Pawmetto Lifeline’s 14th Annual Fur Ball. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, October 17th at the Columbia Convention Center.
Pawmetto Lifeline, formerly Project Pet, was founded in 1999 with the mission of creating a No-Kill community in the Midlands of South Carolina.
“I’m very proud of the work being done by Pawmetto LifeLine,” said attorney Joseph Berry who serves as a board member for the organization.
The Fur Ball, now in its 14th year is a black-tie gala and one of the largest in the Midlands of its kind. The event features live music, silent & live auction, food & drinks, and much more!
Funds raised from the event are used to further Pawmetto’s goal of solving companion pet homelessness and making the Midlands a No-Kill community through adoption, pet retention, rescue partnerships, and medical services.
If you are interested in being a sponsor? Contact Jack Sloan at email@example.com or (803) 465-9191.
Columbia’s Malfunction Junction is getting a much-needed face lift. The Carolina Crossroads project is one of the most significant road improvement projects ever undertaken in South Carolina. Anyone who has driven through the I-20/26/126 corridor in Columbia, otherwise known as “malfunction junction,” during peak morning or evening commute times, or increasingly at any time, can attest to the urgent need for greater capacity and easier transitions between interstates.
The project will add lanes and rework the interchanges on I-126 between Colonial Life Boulevard and I-26 at Broad River Road. The project will also specifically address the I-20/26 connection. In the long run, such improvements will be welcomed by commuters and travelers alike, but in the near term, hundreds of businesses and property owners will be required to shoulder the burden of public progress by having their land taken by the government to make these improvements a reality.
How does this project impact businesses? If your business or property is situated along the frontage roads of the I-26/126 corridor between Colonial Life Boulevard and Harbison Boulevard you should expect a major impact. The Carolina Crossroads project is adding lanes in each direction to this stretch of I-26/I-126. Interstate lane expansion will push the frontage roads out wider than their current location and will require the South Carolina Department of Transportation to take frontage property from landowners.
Sign up now for this live FREE webinar that will cover the Carolina Crossroads (Malfunction Junction) project currently underway, as well as the eminent domain process, and the impact that eminent domain can have for you and/or your business.
The webinar will be held on September 9th at 3:30. To sign up go to www.lewisbabcock.com/register
Lewis Babcock, L.L.P. is pleased to announce that founding partner, Keith Babcock, has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2021.
Babcock was recognized in two areas:
Babcock has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America® publication for 15 years. Best Lawyers is one of the oldest peer-review publications in the legal profession and is regarded by many as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Rankings are based on an exhaustive peer-review process in which attorneys from across the country provide feedback on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their respective practice areas.