Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, Res. v. Airport Investment Company, App. ( 2015 )


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  •     IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
    
     CENTRAL PUGET SOUND REGIONAL
    TRANSIT AUTHORITY, a regional transit                 No. 70958-5-
    authority, dba SOUND TRANSIT,
                                                          DIVISION ONE
                         Respondent,
                                                          UNPUBLISHED OPINION
                         v.
    
    
    
    AIRPORT INVESTMENT COMPANY, a
    Washington corporation, dba Hampton
     Inn,
    
                         Appellant,
    
     HORIZON AIR INDUSTRIES, INC., a
    Washington corporation; IBEW 77
    INTERNATIONAL BOULEVARD, LLC, a
    Washington limited liability company;
    JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.C., fka The
    Chase Manhattan Bank, as Trustee for the
    Registered Holders of Prudential
    Securities Financing Corporation
    Commercial Mortgage Pass-Through
    Certificates, Series 199-C2; KING
    COUNTY; and ALL UNKNOWN OWNERS
    and UNKNOWN TENANTS,
    
                         Defendants.                      FILED: January 26, 2015
    
    
            Appelwick, J. — A jury awarded AlC $225,000 in just compensation for Sound
    
    Transit's condemnation of easements across the company's Hampton Inn property. AlC
    
    argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it excluded evidence of damages
    No. 70958-5-1/2
    
    
    
    
    based on Hampton Inn's franchise requirements and business practices. AlC claims the
    
    trial court abused its discretion when it connected the admissibility of one of AlC's earlier
    
    appraisals with the admissibility of an earlier Sound Transit appraisal. It contends the trial
    
    court abused its discretion by admitting testimony from the company's president that was
    
    based on an appraiser's out-of-court valuation. It argues that it is entitled to an award of
    
    attorney fees under either RCW 8.25.070(1 )(a) or RCW 8.25.075(1 )(b). We affirm.
    
                                               FACTS
    
    
             Airport Investment Company (AlC) owns property just south of SeaTac Airport.
    
    The property consists of approximately 112,626 square feet of land area and is developed
    
    with a four story, 130 room hotel. AlC operates the hotel under a Hampton Inn franchise.
    
    On July 28, 2011, Sound Transit decided to acquire a permanent guideway easement
    
    and a temporary construction easement (TCE) over the AlC property. The permanent
    
    guideway easement is to provide for the operation of an elevated light rail line along the
    
    property's western boundary. Sound Transit also sought a three year TCE to enable it
    
    time to construct the guideway. In November 2012, AlC stipulated to Sound Transit's
    
    early possession and use of the easements. In exchange, Sound Transit made a deposit
    
    with the clerk of the court. The parties subsequently exchanged valuations by their
    
    respective appraisers, but could not agree on a value for the takings and proceeded to
    
    trial.
    
    
             After the jury trial, the jury awarded AlC $225,000 in just compensation—$163,497
    
    for the permanent easement and $61,503 for the TCE.            The trial court denied AlC's
    
    request for attorney fees and expenses.
    No. 70958-5-1/3
    
    
    
    
           AlC appeals and seeks reversal, because it claims it was denied appropriate just
    
    compensation.     It contends that there were prejudicial evidentiary errors at trial that
    
    denied it just compensation for the taking. AlC also contends that it is entitled to attorney
    
    fees below and on appeal, because either RCW 8.25.075(1 )(b) or RCW 8.25.070(1 )(a)
    
    provide for a fee award.
    
                                           DISCUSSION
    
    
      I.   Hampton Inn's Franchise Requirements and Business Practices
    
           AlC claims that the trial court erred when it prevented AlC's appraiser, Scott
    
    Biethan, from supporting his opinion with references to the Hampton Inn franchise
    
    agreement and related business practices. It contends that the evidence is relevant and
    
    therefore admissible under the well-accepted income method of appraisal.
    
           At trial, the parties' testifying appraisers presented two very disparate just
    
    compensation values. Both appraisers utilized the income method of appraisal and the
    
    sales comparison method in reaching their appraisal values.1 Sound Transit's appraisal
    
    expert, Murray Brackett, testified that the permanent easement was worth $113,169, the
    
    TCE was worth $61,503, and that there were no severance damages.                 Severance
    
    damages are the amount by which the permanent easement damages the property
    
    remainder.   In contrast, AlC's testifying expert, Biethan, testified that the permanent
    
    easement was valued at $210,000 and the TCE was worth $32,124. But, unlike Brackett,
    
    Biethan also included $1,457,000 in his appraisal representing severance damages.
    
    Consequently, Biethan testified that $1,699,124 in just compensation was appropriate.
    
    
    
    
            Murray Brackett, Sound Transit's appraiser, also utilized a cost method.
    No. 70958-5-1/4
    
    
    
    
           Biethan's original appraisal was even higher as to severance damages.            The
    
    appraisal was based, in part, on certain franchise requirements and business practices
    
    imposed on AlC's hotel operations by the Hampton Inn franchise agreement. In light of
    
    Biethan's appraisal calculation methods, Sound Transit filed a motion in limine to exclude
    
    any evidence of franchise operation requirements and business practices currently
    
    imposed on AlC's property. It argued that the evidence should be excluded, because
    
    business losses and consequential damages are not compensable in eminent domain
    
    actions.
    
    
           AlC responded that evidence of the franchise agreements was relevant, because
    
    Sound Transit's construction activities would essentially put AlC in breach of its franchise
    
    agreement. The franchise agreement requires AlC to provide one parking space per
    
    room. AlC argued that Sound Transit's construction would limit the amount of parking
    
    spaces available, rendering it unable to comply with the franchise parking requirement.
    
    AlC claimed that it would be forced to use valet services during construction to help
    
    mitigate the parking issue and that evidence of this mitigation should be admitted.
    
    Further, it claimed that both the temporary and permanent easements would result in a
    
    loss of property value, because the hotel would be forced to honor its 100 percent money
    
    back guaranty more often due to the construction. AlC claimed that itwas not introducing
    
    the evidence to seek lost profits or consequential damages, but to show that the property's
    
    value would decrease. The trial court granted Sound Transit's motion in limine.
    
           On appeal AlC renews this argument and contends that the trial court's ruling
    
    prevented Biethan from adequately supporting and explaining his opinion that AlC would
    
    suffer a great loss for diminution to the remainder of the property after the taking. It
    No. 70958-5-1/5
    
    
    
    
    contends that the evidence is relevant and therefore admissible under the well-accepted
    
    income method of appraisal.2
    
          This court reviews relevance issues for abuse of discretion.      City of Bellevue v.
    
    Kravik, 
    69 Wash. App. 735
    , 741, 
    850 P.2d 559
     (1993). A trial court abuses its discretion
    
    only if its decision was manifestly unreasonable, exercised on untenable grounds, or
    
    based on untenable reasons. Gorman v. Pierce County. 
    176 Wash. App. 63
    , 84, 
    307 P.3d 795
     (2013), review denied. 
    179 Wash. 2d 1010
    , 
    316 P.3d 495
     (2014).
    
          AlC cites to cases that it claims endorse the income approach of appraisal.3 But,
    
    whether the income approach is an admissible method of appraisal is not at issue. Both
    
    appraisers were allowed to testify to value under the income approach. Acceptance of
    
    the income approach to appraisal does not mean that there are no limitations in a
    
    condemnation proceeding on that approach or on what is properly recoverable. The issue
    
    is whether the trial court properly excluded consideration of AlC's franchise specific
    
    damage claims.
    
           It is well established law in Washington that an eminent domain award must relate
    
    to the property's market value, not the business conducted there. See Seattle & Mont.
    
    R.R. v. Roeder. 
    30 Wash. 244
    , 264,70 P. 498 (1902). It is the property of the condemnee,
    
    not the business, which is condemned. See Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound R.R. v.
    
    
            2Sound Transit contends that AlC failed to preserve this issue for appeal, because
    it did not present an offer of proof showing how the evidence was relevant to property
    value as opposed to noncompensable business losses or other consequential damages.
    But, this is effectively the issue at the heart of the appeal—whether the trial court abused
    its discretion by excluding AlC's evidence, which AlC contends is both relevant to the
    property value appraisal and legally admissible. As such, we reach the merits of AlC's
    argument.
           3 State v. Obie Outdoor Adver.. 
    9 Wash. App. 943
    , 946-47, 
    516 P.2d 233
     (1973);
    Tiger Oil Corp. v. Yakima County, 
    158 Wash. App. 553
    , 563, 
    242 P.3d 936
     (2010).
    No. 70958-5-1/6
    
    
    
    True. 
    62 Wash. 646
    , 650, 
    114 P. 515
     (1911). Damages cannot be allowed for the loss of
    
    profits of a business maintained on the property. Renton v. Scott Pac. Terminal, 9 Wn.
    
    App. 364, 368-69, 
    512 P.2d 1137
     (1973). Just compensation should reflect the land's
    
    objective value and its lesser desirability to a willing buyer, not its desirability to a specific
    
    owner. See Martin v. Port of Seattle. 
    64 Wash. 2d 309
    , 319, 
    391 P.2d 540
     (1964). Further,
    
    Washington cases establish that consequential damages, including lost profits, are not
    
    available in eminent domain proceedings. See City of Tacoma v. Nisguallv Power Co.,
    
    
    57 Wash. 420
    , 434, 
    107 P. 199
     (1910); True, 62 Wash, at 650 (1911); Fix v. City of
    
    Tacoma, 
    171 Wash. 196
    , 200, 
    17 P.2d 599
     (1933).
    
           Biethan's original appraisal accounted for specialized Hampton Inn franchise
    
    requirements and business practices that gave rise to franchise specific damages to AlC.
    
    This claim is clearly one of damage to the specific business operating on the property,
    
    not to the property itself. These damages would not apply to every buyer seeking to
    
    purchase or rent the hotel property at fair market value. Only those buying the franchise
    
    with the property would be constrained by those same restrictions.4               The case law
    
    excludes recovery of these damages.
    
           The trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the proposed evidence
    
    irrelevant and inadmissible.
    
    
    
    
           4 AlC argues that because Sound Transit's appraiser accounted for the fact that
    the hotel property is suitable for maintaining a national brand means that Hampton Inn-
    specific practices should be admitted into evidence also. But, not every potential buyer
    on the market, even one interested in acquiring a hotel property suitable to support a
    national brand, is seeking to acquire a Hampton Inn. Evidence that a hotel property is
    generally of franchise quality is different from evidence that a Hampton Inn business
    would stand to lose income because of constraining franchise requirements.
    No. 70958-5-1/7
    
    
    
    
     II.   Earlier Appraisals
    
           In May 2012, Sound Transit sent AlC a valuation offer of $142,300 for the
    
    easements based on an initial appraisal by its appraiser. Sound Transit stated that AlC
    
    had the right to obtain its own appraisal at Sound Transit's expense. Consequently, AlC
    
    hired Patrick Lamb to provide an appraisal. Lamb valued the easements at $485,000.
    
    AlC submitted the Lamb appraisal to Sound Transit in July 2012 with a letter expressing
    
    its strong belief that it was entitled to $485,000.
    
           On January 2, 2013, AlC told Sound Transit that it would be hiring another
    
    appraiser. AlC hired Biethan as its new appraiser. Biethan appraised the permanent
    
    easement at $210,000. He also concluded that the permanent easement would damage
    
    the remainder of the property by $1.6 million.5
    
           Sound Transit's appraiser, Brackett, then updated his original appraisal in May
    
    2013. He valued the permanent easement at $113,169 and the TCE at $68,657.
    
           Sound Transit made a 30 day offer for the easements on June 14, 2013. Sound
    
    Transit's 30 day offer was marked "For Settlement Purposes Only." Sound Transit offered
    
    AlC $463,500 for both the permanent easement and the TCE. Sound Transit's offer
    
    remained open until July 17, 2013, the first day of trial. AlC did not accept Sound Transit's
    
    settlement offer, and the valuation case proceeded to trial.
    
           Prior to trial, AlC filed a motion in limine requesting that evidence of AlC's initial
    
    Lamb appraisal be excluded from trial as work product produced by a consulting expert
    
    and as evidence related to settlement discussions. Sound Transit argued that Lamb's
    
    
    
          5 At trial, Biethan testified that the permanent easement damaged the property
    remainder by $1,457,000.
    No. 70958-5-1/8
    
    
    
    
    initial appraisal was not protected as a settlement offer, because it was not labeled as
    
    such. Alternatively, it argued that if the trial court construed Lamb's appraisal as a part
    
    of a settlement offer, then Sound Transit's (Brackett's) first appraisal should also be
    
    excluded under the same rationale.
    
           The trial court found that it was not convinced from the record that it had a sufficient
    
    showing for either the work product privilege or the settlement privilege to apply to Lamb's
    
    appraisal. It said that itwas not convinced either applied, because they were both waived
    
    when AlC sent Sound Transit Lamb's appraisal without delineating it as "for settlement
    
    purposes only." But, it declined to make a final determination regarding either privilege.
    
    The trial court finally concluded, "So I'm going to let you folks figure out if you want to get
    
    into this history. Ifone of you does, the other one can. All right? I'm going to do a tradeoff
    
    here." The court further opined that it preferred neither side address the earlier appraisals
    
    as they are unimportant and confusing for the jury to consider.
    
           On appeal, AlC argues that the trial court erred when it did not unequivocally grant
    
    its motion in limine to exclude Lamb's out-of-court valuation independent of Sound
    
    Transit's earlier appraisal. It claims that the two positions could not be equated—Sound
    
    Transit's appraiser would testify at trial and AlC's would not. AlC argues that it should
    
    have been able to impeach Brackett without the threat that its initial appraisal would also
    
    be admitted.
    
           The trial court's ruling on a pretrial motion to exclude evidence is within the
    
    discretion of the trial court, and is reviewed for abuse of discretion. See Gammon v. Clark
    
    Eguip. Co., 
    38 Wash. App. 274
    , 286, 
    686 P.2d 1102
     (1984), affd, 
    104 Wash. 2d 613
    , 707 P.2d
    
    685(1985).
    
    
                                                      8
    No. 70958-5-1/9
    
    
    
           The two appraisals were communicated around the same point in time (May 2012
    
    and July 2012) and both were communicated in advance of any litigation. Neither of the
    
    initial appraisals were labeled as settlement communications on their faces. Whether the
    
    initial appraiser was a consulting or testifying expert has no bearing on whether the earlier
    
    appraisals were settlement offers when communicated. It was not an abuse of discretion
    
    for the trial court to equate them and reserve judgment as to whether they were in fact
    
    protected settlement offers.6
    
           Even if it had been error, it was clearly harmless. AlC wanted to impeach Brackett
    
    without Lamb's appraisal being admitted into evidence. AlC was afforded the opportunity
    
    to cross-examine and impeach Brackett regarding his earlier appraisal and it seized that
    
    opportunity. And, Lamb did not testify nor was his appraisal admitted. This was AlC's
    
    desired outcome when it moved to exclude Lamb's earlier appraisal. The value Lamb
    
    provided came in through AlC's president, Sandra Oh, as a result of a separate
    
    evidentiary ruling. Even if the trial court had explicitly granted AlC's motion in limine, that
    
    ruling would not have precluded the trial court's ruling admitting Oh's testimony. Any
    
    prejudice from the admission of Lamb's appraisal value turns on the correctness of the
    
    trial court ruling about Oh's testimony, not on the ruling on AlC's motion in limine.
    
    
           6 On appeal, AlC argues that itwas an abuse of discretion for the trial court to deny
    its motion in limine because it was "unopposed." In response to AlC's motions in limine
    below, Sound Transit said that it agreed generally to the exclusion but that it wished to
    present some caveats and clarifications in light of AlC's arguments about the issues.
    Sound Transit argued that Lamb's appraisal was not a settlement offer and that if it was,
    Brackett's earlier appraisal was too. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in treating
    AlC's motion in limine as an opposed motion. Further, AlC provides no support for its
    assertion that a trial court abuses its discretion when it does not grant an unopposed
    motion. RAP 10.3(a)(6); In re Marriage of Fahev. 
    164 Wash. App. 42
    , 59, 
    262 P.3d 128
    (2011) (an appellate court does not address arguments that are not supported by cited
    authorities).
    No. 70958-5-1/10
    
    
    
    
     III.   Sandra Oh's Testimony
    
            AlC contends that the trial court erred when it required Oh to provide testimony
    
    about her belief of the value of the property that was based on Lamb's out-of-court
    
    valuation opinion. AlC claims that Oh's statements were hearsay, because they were
    
    based on Lamb's out-of court valuation. Alternatively, AlC contends that Oh's testimony
    
    should have been excluded, because the valuation opinion of an owner is not admissible
    
    when it is based entirely on an expert's valuation.
    
            Sound Transit called Oh as a witness. With the jury excused, the parties discussed
    
    the admissibility of Oh's testimony regarding her belief of the property value. The court
    
    questioned Oh:
    
                    THE COURT: Was there a belief that you were entitled to $485,000
            for just compensation?
    
                   MS. OH: Whatever was in the appraisal and what the appraiser came
            up with with --
    
                   THE COURT: Is that an accurate statement, Ms. Oh?           Did you
            believe you're entitled to $485,000? When you said it in July, was that an
            accurate statement about what your belief was?
    
                   MS. OH: My belief was whatever the appraiser said was -
    
                   THE COURT: Yes. Focus on the letter and the date and tell me if
            this was your belief.
    
                   MS. OH: Well, that was my belief from the information from the
            appraiser.
    
    
    
                   THE COURT: . . . I do think it's clear that this is a statement of
            something that she believed at the time and [Sound Transit] can bring it in
            as her party admission.
    
    
    
    
                                                    10
    No. 70958-5-1/11
    
    
    
    
    AlC then objected, contending that Oh's belief testimony would not satisfy the party
    
    admission hearsay exception. The court responded that Oh's belief was not hearsay.
    
           Oh then testified in front of the jury. Counsel for Sound Transit asked Oh, "And as
    
    of July 16, 2012, was it Airport Investment Company's and your belief, strong belief, that
    
    Airport Investment Company was entitled to a total of $485,000 for just compensation."
    
    Oh responded that she, "based compensation on whatever the appraiser said." When
    
    pressed to answer either "yes" or "no" to Sound Transit's question, Oh responded, "Yes."
    
           This court reviews the correct interpretation of an evidentiary rule de novo as a
    
    question of law. State v. DeVincentis, 150Wn.2d 11. 17. 
    74 P.3d 119
     (2003). Once the
    
    rule is correctly interpreted, the trial court's decision to admit or exclude the evidence is
    
    reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Id. As such, whether Oh's testimony is hearsay or
    
    inadmissible opinion testimony is first subject to de novo review.
    
           The trial court ruled that Oh's belief of value was not hearsay and was admissible
    
    as a party admission. It authorized Oh to testify as to her belief of value. An admission
    
    by a party opponent is not hearsay. ER 801(d)(2); Lodis v. Corbis Holdings, Inc., 
    172 Wash. App. 835
    , 859, 
    292 P.3d 779
     (2013). An admission qualifies as an admission by a
    
    party opponent if the statement is offered against a party and is (i) the party's own
    
    statement, (ii) a statement of which the party has manifested an adoption or belief in its
    
    truth, or (iii) a person authorized by the party to make a statement concerning the subject,
    
    or (iv) a statement by the party's agent acting within the scope of authority to make the
    
    statement for the party. ER 801 (d)(2).
    
           Here, Oh's statement regarding her belief of the property's value was clearly
    
    offered against AlC as a method of undercutting a larger appraisal that was admitted at
    
    
                                                     11
    No. 70958-5-1/12
    
    
    
    
    trial. There was no dispute below that as president, Oh is a principal authorized to make
    
    a statement concerning AlC's beliefs. In voir dire, Oh admitted to adopting the belief of
    
    the $485,000 value that AlC sent to Sound Transit via letter on July 16, 2012. Oh then
    
    repeated in trial that she believed the property was worth $485,000. Oh's belief of value
    
    falls within the definition of a party admission under ER 801(d)(2) and is therefore not
    
    hearsay. The trial court did not abuse its discretion.
    
          Still, AlC argues that Oh's testimony went beyond the scope of ER 801(d)(2)'s
    
    exclusion.   Even if ER 801(d)(2) did not apply, the testimony that the trial court
    
    authorized—Oh's belief of the property value—is simply not hearsay by definition.
    
    Hearsay is an out-of-court statement made to prove the truth of the matter asserted. ER
    
    801(c); In re Pet, of Law, 
    146 Wash. App. 28
    , 38, 
    204 P.3d 230
     (2008). Oh's belief of value
    
    is quite simply not an out-of-court statement.7 The trial court did not abuse its discretion
    
    in admitting Oh's belief testimony as nonhearsay.
    
           When Oh referred to Lamb's appraisal while testifying and communicated an out-
    
    of-court statement in the process, AlC did not object or move to strike. AlC claims that it
    
    did not need to object again during Oh's questioning, because it had previously objected
    
    and was overruled during voir dire. AlC claims that it was entitled to treat the ruling as
    
    the "law of the trial." But, during voir dire, AlC's hearsay objection was overruled as to
    
    
    
    
           7 The trial court did not rule that it would not be hearsay if Oh testified as to Lamb's
    appraisal. Similarly, the trial court did not authorize Sound Transit to ask Oh, "What did
    Lamb say the property was worth?" which would have elicited a response citing to an out-
    of-court statement. Based on the trial court's ruling and the question Sound Transit
    asked, Oh could have responded "yes" or "no," without ever mentioning the foundation of
    her belief and without alluding to Lamb's out-of-court appraisal.
    
                                                      12
    No. 70958-5-1/13
    
    
    
    
    Oh testifying about her belief of value of the property, not as to Lamb's appraisal or
    
    statements by Lamb. The issue has not been preserved.
    
           AlC also argues that Oh's belief of the value of the property is inadmissible opinion
    
    testimony, because the valuation opinion of an owner is not admissible when it is based
    
    entirely on the hearsay of an expert's valuation. AlC cites to SentinelC3, Inc. v. Hunt, 
    181 Wash. 2d 127
    , 
    331 P.3d 40
     (2014), which relies on ER 701 for this assertion. ER 701 limits
    
    a lay witness's testimony to opinions and inferences based on the perception of the
    
    witness. In SentinelC3, dissenting shareholders wished to testify to establish their shares'
    
    values in order to withstand summary judgment. 181 Wn.2d at 136,142. Relying on ER
    
    701, the court found the shareholders' testimony inadmissible, because it was not based
    
    on firsthand knowledge or observation and the valuation report of the experts filed with
    
    the court was never authenticated, jd. at 142. Unlike in SentinelC3, Oh did not offer her
    
    opinion of what the property was worth to establish a fact necessary or favorable to her
    
    case. Rather, Oh's testimony verified that in July when she made a statement of value
    
    she believed the statement. It was a statement against her interest. The basis of that
    
    belief and the correctness of that belief were not sought by the questions asked. To the
    
    extent she volunteered testimony that may have been objectionable under ER 701, AlC
    
    did not object on that basis below. Any error is not preserved.
    
           The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Oh's testimony.
    
    IV.    Attorney Fees
    
           AlC argues on appeal that the trial court erred when it denied its request for fees
    
    under RCW 8.25.070(1 )(a) or RCW 8.25.075(1 )(b).           RCW 8.25.070 sets out the
    
    conditions for an award of attorney fees:
    
    
                                                    13
    No. 70958-5-1/14
    
    
           [l]f a trial is held for the fixing of the amount of compensation to be awarded
           to the owner or party having an interest in the property being condemned,
           the court shall award the condemnee reasonable attorney's fees and
           reasonable expert witness fees in the event of any of the following:
    
                (a) If condemnor fails to make any written offer in settlement to
           condemnee at least thirty days prior to commencement of said trial; or
    
                  (b) If the judgment awarded as a result of the trial exceeds by ten
           percent or more the highest written offer in settlement submitted to those
           condemnees appearing in the action by condemnor in effect thirty days
           before the trial.
    
           Sound Transit made a 30 day offer to AlC of $463,500 for both easements. AlC
    
    did not recover 10 percent more than Sound Transit's 30 day offer at trial, 509,850. At
    
    trial, AlC received a verdict of $225,000 for both easements. Therefore, under the plain
    
    language of the statute, AlC was ineligible to recover fees.
    
           AlC nonetheless contends it is entitled to fees under RCW 8.25.070(1)(a), because
    
    Sound Transit failed to satisfy its obligations under the statute by not making a 30 day
    
    offer on the actual TCE at issue. AlC implies that Sound Transit deliberately exaggerated
    
    its taking at the commencement of the condemnation proceedings in order to later present
    
    the jury with a lesser taking and insulate itself from exposure to a fee award under RCW
    
    8.25.070(1 )(b). AlC interprets 8.25.070(1 )(a) to require a 30 day offer on the exact
    
    easement at issue at trial.
    
    
           Statutory interpretation is a legal question that this court reviews de novo. State
    
    v. Costich, 
    152 Wash. 2d 463
    , 470, 
    98 P.3d 795
     (2004). This court begins its analysis with
    
    the plain language employed by the legislature recalling that the primary goal is to give
    
    effect to the legislature's intent. Id. Ifthe language is unambiguous, this court gives effect
    
    to that language,     jd.   The purpose of RCW 8.25.070 is to encourage settlement
    
    negotiations before trial and ensure that each side makes a good faith effort to settle.
    
    
                                                     14
    No. 70958-5-1/15
    
    
    
    Olympic Pipe Line Co. v. Thoenv. 
    124 Wash. App. 381
    , 399, 
    101 P.3d 430
     (2004); Port of
    
    Seattle v. Rio. 
    16 Wash. App. 718
    , 720-21, 
    559 P.2d 18
     (1977).
    
          The TCE initially provided for a 3,883 square foot easement area. This area
    
    included a space Sound Transit's contractor would need only if the guideway column
    
    placement required a driveway relocation. AlC was concerned about the size of the TCE,
    
    because it would reduce available parking at the hotel. The TCE would eliminate about
    
    25 parking spaces, and itwas also going to make itdifficult to use six more parking spaces
    
    abutting the building. The original TCE provided for a three year term of use.
    
          On June 14, 2013, Sound Transit made a 30 day settlement offer for the value of
    
    the easements. On July 1, 2013, Sound Transit informed AlC that it would change the
    
    configuration of the TCE, because it no longer needed to relocate the driveway. Sound
    
    Transit provided AlC with an updated parcel map and updated right of way plan showing
    
    the change on that same day. This modification reduced the TCE area to 2,885 square
    
    feet—nearly a 1,000 square foot reduction. Sound Transit's initial offer remained open
    
    for more than two weeks after it provided AlC with the revised parcel map and right of
    
    way of plan. AlC did not oppose the reduced TCE square footage.
    
          The TCE provided Sound Transit with exclusive occupancy of the TCE for the three
    
    year period, but allowed AlC to retain the right to use the TCE for all purposes except
    
    those inconsistent with Sound Transit's construction activities. Despite the language in
    
    the TCE, Sound Transit had communicated to AlC that its construction would only require
    
    sporadic use of the TCE area during the three year period.
    
    
    
    
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    No. 70958-5-1/16
    
    
    
    
          AlC filed motions in limine prior to trial. In its motions, AlC requested the exclusion
    
    of any evidence that Sound Transit would use the TCE for a period of less time than was
    
    explicitly set forth in the easement. Sound Transit responded that it would try and change
    
    the language in the TCE to limit its exclusive right to use the TCE in order to make the
    
    language more consistent with its anticipated use. The trial court agreed with AlC that if
    
    Sound Transit had the right to exclusive use of the TCE area for the entire three year
    
    term, it could not attempt to show the jury that its actual duration of use would be less.
    
    The trial court granted AlC's motion, but specifically provided that its ruling did not
    
    preclude Sound Transit from submitting a revised TCE providing for the actual anticipated
    
    time of use of the TCE area.
    
           With leave of the trial court, Sound Transit revised the TCE language regarding
    
    time of use and gave it to AlC, after jury selection, but before opening arguments. The
    
    revised language still provided for a three year easement term, but limited Sound Transit's
    
    exclusive use of the TCE area to a total of 160 nonconsecutive days during the term. The
    
    TCE also required 14 days' notice to AlC before each exclusive use period.
    
           AlC filed a posttrial motion for fees and costs based on the argument that when
    
    Sound Transit changed the size of the TCE and the durational language of the TCE, it
    
    either nullified its 30 day offer or abandoned the condemnation proceeding altogether.
    
    The trial court denied AlC's motion.
    
           The plain language of RCW 8.25.070(1 )(a) says the condemnor must fail to make
    
    any written settlement offer in order for the condemnee to be entitled to fees.        RCW
    
    8.25.070(1 )(a). The only statutory requirements are that the offer must be "in settlement,"
    
    
    
    
                                                    16
    No. 70958-5-1/17
    
    
    
    
    "written," and made at least 30 days prior to the beginning of trial. Id. Sound Transit
    
    satisfied these requirements.
    
           Further, Sound Transit satisfied the purpose of RCW 8.25.070 when it made its 30
    
    day offer. Sound Transit made an offer based on how much land its contractor believed
    
    it would need for the build at that time. By submitting its original 30 day offer, Sound
    
    Transit began settlement negotiations so the parties could attempt to work together and
    
    avoid trial.8 The offer was more than twice the appraisal value from Sound Transit's
    
    appraiser. AlC was free to accept that offer. The evidence does not support that this
    
    number was not submitted in good faith.
    
           Moreover, there is no evidence that the reason Sound Transit reduced the initial
    
    taking after making its initial 30 day offer was to avoid an attorney fee award. The TCE
    
    changes were made, in part, in response to complaints from AlC about the TCE's impact
    
    on parking. Sound Transit originally believed it would need the additional property for the
    
    TCE to accommodate a driveway relocation.            But, the contractor was able to make
    
    changes later that enabled Sound Transit's work to have less of an impact on AlC's
    
    property. Sound Transit was consistently learning new information from its contractor
    
    about what it would require for the TCE in the time leading up to trial.
    
           Further, prior to the hearings on the motions in limine, Sound Transit
    
    communicated to AlC that it would likely use the TCE for a shorter period of time than is
    
    set forth in the actual TCE. Consequently, AlC moved to exclude any evidence that
    
           8 Sound Transit's 30 day settlement offer remained open for two weeks after it
    provided AlC with the revised parcel map and right of way plan. While Sound Transit did
    not present the revised easement to AlC with a full 30 days before trial, the timing of
    Sound Transit's revision still afforded AlC the opportunity to carry out the intent of the
    statute—to negotiate with Sound Transit in an effort to avoid trial.
    
                                                    17
    No. 70958-5-1/18
    
    
    
    
    Sound Transit would use the TCE for less than the period designated in the easement.
    
    Despite the fact that Sound Transit was confident it would not need 160 day exclusive
    
    use of the TCE—the period designated in the revised easement—its appraiser valued the
    
    TCE for the full three year period. Because of its uncertainties about its construction
    
    needs, Sound Transit effectively agreed to pay for more exclusive use of the easement
    
    than it believed it was actually going to need during construction. There is no indication
    
    that the TCE changes were not made in good faith or were manipulated in order to prevent
    
    the fee statute from being triggered.
    
           Moreover, after the size reduction, Sound Transit's appraiser valued the TCE at
    
    $61,503—the amount presented at trial. This resulted in roughly a $7,154 reduction in
    
    fair market value.9 In order to satisfy RCW 8.25.070(1 )(b), AlC needed to win a verdict
    
    of at least $509,850 at trial. The jury awarded AlC $163,497 for the permanent easement
    
    and $61,503 for the TCE. Even if Brackett's higher TCE appraisal had been presented
    
    to the jury and accepted, that $7,154 increase would not have taken the judgment
    
    anywhere near the offer, let alone 10 percent above it. Because the combined highest
    
    appraisals of the permanent easement and the TCE were substantially below Sound
    
    Transit's offer, AlCs hope of recovery of attorney fees was solely dependent on recovery
    
    of sufficient severance damages. The trial court did not err when it did not award AlC
    
    attorney fees under RCW 8.25.070(1).
    
    
    
    
           9 AlC's appraiser valued the original TCE at $56,000. After the reduction, AlC's
    appraiser valued the TCE at $32,124—a $23,876 reduction. This comparatively larger
    reduction in value by AlC's appraiser accounts for both the reduction of square footage
    for the TCE and accounts for the elimination of an erroneous additional fourth year
    previously included in the calculation.
    
    
                                                   18
    No. 70958-5-1/19
    
    
    
    
             Alternatively, AlC argues that it is entitled to fees and costs under RCW
    
    8.25.075(1 )(b), because the change of the TCE constitutes an abandonment of the
    
    original taking.    It contends that Sound Transit abandoned its taking by materially
    
    modifying the TCE during trial and put before the jury a different taking than the one for
    
    which it petitioned and obtained possession and use. AlC argues this is so, because the
    
    property Sound Transit is actually condemning is smaller and for a shorter amount of time
    
    than it was at the time of the 30 day offer. AlC cites to a 25 percent decrease in the area
    
    of the TCE and a reduction in duration of two and a half years.
    
             RCW 8.25.075(1) provides:
    
             A superior court having jurisdiction of a proceeding instituted by a
             condemnor to acquire real property shall award the condemnee costs
             including reasonable attorney fees and reasonable expert fees if:
    
    
    
                  (b) The proceeding is abandoned by the condemnor.
    
             A plain language reading of this statute indicates that AlC's argument is without
    
    merit.    The statute says that the court will award fees and costs if the comdemnor
    
    abandons the proceeding. Here, there is no indication that Sound Transit abandoned the
    
    condemnation proceeding. In fact, Sound Transit pursued the condemnation through to
    
    judgment.
    
             Further, even if the statute were construed to allow for abandonment of the original
    
    easement instead of the proceeding, AlC has not provided support for its argument that
    
    abandonment is present in this case.           AlC relies solely on authority from other
    
    
    
    
                                                     19
    No. 70958-5-1/20
    
    
    
    
    jurisdictions.10 The case law that AlC relies on interprets abandonment to mean a change
    
    more significant than the changes made to the TCE here. All of the cases from other
    
    jurisdictions cited by AlC involve much more substantial substitutions of property rights or
    
    more substantial reductions in the amount of property taken.
    
           Here, the permanent easement—the more substantial taking—did not change.
    
    The overall TCE location did not change, the nature of the TCE did not change, and the
    
    land area was reduced by about 25 percent. This resulted in a $7,154 reduction in
    
    Brackett's highest TCE appraisal. Further, the duration of the exclusive use language
    
    was simply clarified without changing either party's appraisals. AlC claims that the TCE
    
    duration was reduced by 2.5 years, but this mischaracterizes the changes Sound Transit
    
    made to the TCE. The revised TCE did reduce the amount of exclusive use to 160 days,
    
    but the duration of the easement was still for three years. The modification of the TCE
    
    was less significant here than the modifications that were found to be abandonments in
    
    the other jurisdictions. The trial court did not err in denying AlC's posttrial motion for
    
    attorney fees and costs under RCW 8.25.075(1 )(b).
    
           Additionally, AlC argues that it is entitled to attorney fees on appeal pursuant to
    
    RAP 18.1 if it prevails. A prevailing party may recover attorney fees only if provided by
    
    statute, agreement, or equitable principles. Tacoma Northpark, LLC v. NW, LLC, 123
    
           10 Dep't of Transp. v. N. Trust Co.. 59 III. App. 3d 1053, 1054, 
    376 N.E.2d 286
    (1978) (area taken reduced to one-sixth of area encompassed in original petition); County
    of Kern v. Galatas, 
    200 Cal. App. 2d 353
    , 354-55, 
    19 Cal. Rptr. 348
     (1962) (original area
    taken reduced by 35 percent and the taking changed from oil, gas, hydrocarbon, and
    mineral interest to mere right of entry); Montgomery County v. McQuarv, 
    26 Ohio Misc. 239
    , 240, 
    265 N.E.2d 812
     (1971) (sewer route changed to take different course across
    different part of property); FKM P'ship. LTD v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Houston
    Svs.. 
    255 S.W.3d 619
    , 624, 
    51 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 989
     (2008) (amount of property taken
    reduced by more than 97 percent).
    
    
                                                    20
    No. 70958-5-1/21
    
    
    
    
    Wn. App. 73, 84, 
    96 P.3d 454
     (2004). As AlC is not the prevailing party, it is not entitled
    
    to attorney fees on appeal.
    
          The trial court did not abuse its discretion in making the evidentiary rulings
    
    challenged by AlC. The trial court did not err when it denied AlC's motion for attorney
    
    fees and expenses. We affirm.
    
    
    
                                                                '^^€^
    
    
    WE CONCUR:
    
    
    
    
                                                           J
    
    
    
    
                                                   21