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November 20, 2011

Pleban & Associates Hold Over a $1,000,000 Judgment On Appeal

Via St. Louis Post Dispatch

A St. Louis woman whose downtown salvage yard was taken for redevelopment through eminent domain will keep $1 million that a jury awarded to her in a 2010 civil suit, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District ruled today.

The appeals court upheld a St. Louis jury’s award to Opal Henderson, now 82, who lost her property at Seventh and Hickory streets in 2008 to eminent domain for a redevelopment project. City officials had wanted to replace the salvage yard with a redeveloped Ice House District to include bars and restaurants just south of Busch Stadium.

Appellate judges Gary Gaertner, Clifford Ahrens and Roy Richter agreed that the jury’s award of $1,009,000 was constitutional based on testimony admitted during the three-day civil trial in April 2010. That figure represented the estimated value of Henderson’s property plus the cost of cleaning up the land.

City officials have said Henderson’s property was declared blighted in 2004, a necessary step in Missouri before taking land through eminent domain. Henderson rejected the city’s initial bid of $200,000 and appealed for another appraisal.

Henderson’s lawyer, Chet Pleban, had asked for $1,029,000, representing the value of the property plus estimated income from the salvage yard.

Henderson, who ran Opal’s Salvage Yard at the intersection for more than six decades, said she was pleased with the court’s decision but still angry the city put her out of business.

“I would go by that property, look at and think that I could still be working every day,” she said. “I had a good ongoing business. I was paying big taxes, but I guess I have to take what I can get.”

Kara Bowlin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, said the award would be paid by Disper-Schmitt Properties, one of the developers of the Ice House District. In an email, Bowlin said, “we are waiting to see what the developers decide to do.”

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