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DICKIE v. CITY OF TOMAH

November 12, 1991

DEAN A. DICKIE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF TOMAH, Defendant


Brian Barnett Duff, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFF

Introduction

 The plaintiff, Dean A. Dickie, is a citizen of Illinois and is the former owner of approximately 26.94 acres of land in Tomah, Wisconsin. The defendant, the City of Tomah, is a municipality located in Monroe County, Wisconsin. Mr. Dickie has sued Tomah to recover the litigation expenses he incurred in contesting Tomah's condemnation of his property. He also wants to recover interest on the condemnation award for the twenty months that passed between the date of the taking and the date he was finally compensated. The complaint alleges that under Wisconsin's law of eminent domain Mr. Dickie is entitled to both his litigation expenses and the interest. Seeking over $ 50,000 in relief, Mr. Dickie has invoked this court's diversity jurisdiction.

 The City of Tomah has moved to dismiss the action under Rule 12(b)(2) on the grounds that this court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. In the alternative, Tomah has moved to dismiss for improper venue.

 Background1

 In early 1986, Tomah, acting through its Common Council, sought to improve its income-producing fairgrounds by purchasing the Dickie property in a private transaction. The Tomah Common Council expressly agreed during an open meeting to purchase the Dickie property for a purchase price not to exceed $ 130,000. Dickie accepted Tomah's offer to purchase the property. Tomah, however, never proceeded with the sale on the terms approved by the Common Council.

 On January 13, 1988, Tomah's Common Council authorized the condemnation of Dickie's property pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 32.01 et seq. Wisconsin law required the city to mail Dickie a document known as a "Jurisdictional Offer" setting forth an offer to purchase the property and informing him of various provisions of the condemnation statute. Tomah sent its Jurisdictional Offer, which Dickie received on June 16, 1988, to Dickie's business address in Chicago, Illinois. It offered $ 9,000 as compensation for the taking -- considerably less than the $ 130,000 figure proposed by Tomah's Common Council in 1986.

 After Dickie rejected Tomah's $ 9,000 Jurisdictional Offer, Tomah filed a Petition for Condemnation Proceedings in order to have the Condemnation Commissioners of Monroe County determine the "just compensation" Dickie was entitled to. The Condemnation Commissioners held a hearing on July 3, 1989 and determined that the fair market value of the Dickie property immediately before the taking was $ 130,000.

 On September 1, 1989, Dickie filed a timely Notice of Appeal of the Condemnation Commission's decision. Pursuant to Wisconsin law, the appeal was entered as an action pending in the Circuit Court of Monroe County with Dickie as the plaintiff and the City of Tomah as the defendant. On October 3, 1989 Dickie moved to voluntarily dismiss his appeal. Tomah, however, opposed Dickie's motion for voluntary dismissal on the grounds that it would be deprived of an opportunity to litigate the issue of the fair market value of the Dickie property. Tomah had missed the deadline to appeal the Condemnation Commission's decision figuring that it had no need to because Dickie's appeal had already initiated a case in state court.

 The trial court sided with Tomah and voided Dickie's notice of dismissal. The trial court also barred the Clerk of Courts of Monroe County from releasing any of the $ 136,197.55 *fn2" which Tomah had paid to the Clerk pending the outcome of the dispute.

 A Wisconsin appellate court reversed the trial court and reinstated Dickie's Notice of Dismissal. See Dickie v. City of Tomah, 160 Wis. 2d 20, 465 N.W.2d 262 (Wis. Ct. App. 1990). Tomah sought but was denied review by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. As a result, Dickie's effort to voluntarily dismiss was given effect and the determination of the Condemnation Commission was reinstated. On March 21, 1991, the trial court order the Clerk's office to turn over to Dickie the $ 136,197.55 placed there by Tomah on September 11, 1989.

 Dickie now brings this action claiming that under Wisconsin law governing eminent domain, he is entitled to attorneys' fees and additional interest. For reasons stated below, this court grants Tomah's motion to dismiss.

 Discussion

 I. Personal Jurisdiction Over ...


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