Caffe Ribs, Inc. v. State (Opinion)Annotate this Case
Caffe Ribs, Inc. (Caffe) purchased condemned property that was contaminated. After the property was placed into the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) Voluntary Cleanup Program, two of the property’s previous owners (Previous Owners) began remediation. The TCEQ requested four additional groundwater monitoring wells, but the Previous Owners were not able to comply with the request due in part to the State’s impending condemnation. The State then initiated statutory condemnation proceedings against Caffe. For reasons not relevant to this appeal, the Court of Appeals remanded the case for a new trial. At retrial, the State presented testimony that it would take eight years of cleanup to render the property marketable and that the property’s value should be substantially discounted on that basis. Caffe sought to offer testimony that the State’s condemnation project delayed the property’s cleanup, but the trial court excluded the testimony. The jury determined the value of the property to be just under $5 million. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the exclusion of Caffe’s proffered testimony was harmless. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding evidence concerning the State’s role in delaying the condemned property’s environmental cleanup. Remanded for a new trial.