Trial’s outcome stands in landowner’s challenge to VDOT

Gloria Marcon

FRONT ROYAL – A landowner lost her bid Thursday to increase the amount of money a jury awarded her in a lawsuit involving the Virginia Department of Transportation’s seizure of part of her campground.

Warren County Circuit Judge Ronald Napier sided with the agency’s attorneys in deciding he would hear no further arguments by Gloria Marcon’s attorney who was attempting to win more money as compensation for the land taken by VDOT as part of a highway improvement project.

A jury awarded Marcon $55,000 in 2015, far less than the $197,000 she was seeking for 1.2 acres of land lost when VDOT built a new bridge on U.S. 340 over what had been part of the Gooney Creek Campground she owns. The agency gave her $28,500, which was put in escrow. She has refused to spend it as a protest.

“The commissioner’s order is granted,” Napier said, alluding to the Commissioner of Highways, the part of VDOT responsible for obtaining land for the bridge project.

Napier’s ruling effectively restored the jury verdict after he overturned it a few months after the trial. At the time, he ruled, in response to a motion by Marcon’s attorney, that he lacked jurisdiction to conduct a trial challenging the procedures VDOT used to seize Marcon’s property under eminent domain law.

Napier’s ruling opened the way for an out-of-court settlement or a retrial, but VDOT’s attorneys filed an appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court instead.

The court overturned Napier’s ruling, citing a new ruling on eminent domain law that the justices had issued between the time Napier nullified the jury verdict and VDOT’s attorneys filed their appeal.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to Napier for unstated further proceedings. Napier rejected a motion by Marcon’s attorney to argue further issues that had been raised during the trial.

Mark Moorstein, one of VDOT’s attorneys, said after the hearing that Napier’s ruling effectively closed the case.

“We’re happy this is the end,” Moorstein said.

Marcon, 90, and her son, Jeff, said the jury had been confused and exhausted by hours of testimony from VDOT’s appraiser about how the agency determined the value of her land.

“I didn’t know I was coming to court to hear a lesson in 101 appraisal,” Marcon said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.