Heather A. Cunningham
Heather has been advising and representing citizens facing eminent domain issues since 1996. She has been involved in every aspect of eminent domain over the years, from pre-condemnation planning and negotiation through litigation and, when necessary, appeal. She has assisted owners navigating entitlement, easement, access or other issues which impact their ability to use and develop their land. Heather works tirelessly to see that the compensation property owners receive when land is taken is the “just compensation” constitutionally required.
Heather has also been involved in spearheading legislative reforms designed to correct injustices in the law and balance the playing field between property owners and governmental entities with the power to take private property.
Although Heather has significant trial experience, she knows that often the best solution can be achieved outside the courtroom. She has assisted clients with creative solutions to complex land use and takings problems, in many instances developing global solutions with multiple property owners and multiple government agencies.
- Tried a two-week jury trial against a state transportation department involving a taking of property and access rights. The transportation department claimed that the damages to the property were minimal, and just compensation was $327,000. The jury determined that just compensation was $2,421,530. The trial judge awarded the property owner costs, fees and interest, and the total judgment of just under $4 million dollars was upheld on appeal.
- Tried a case to a jury where the condemnor, a city, based just compensation on an out of date appraisal report. The city asserted that the property’s value had not increased and just compensation for a strip of property from a commercial shopping center was $440,000, despite the loss of multiple parking spaces. The trial Judge excluded the city’s appraiser and did not allow him to testify. The jury determined just compensation was almost twice the amount the city advocated. After costs, fees and interest were awarded by the Court post-trial, the judgment was just less than a million dollars.
- Represented property owners in numerous other jury trials and appeals involving condemnations by various government agencies.
- Filed suit against a Highway District when the District claimed it had the right to construct a road across private property pursuant to an ordinance, without a valid easement. Successfully tried the issue of whether there had been an unconstitutional taking to the Court, and then tried the valuation phase of the case to a jury. The Highway District valued just compensation at $10,060, but the jury found it was $212,144. Briefed and argued the case before the state Supreme Court when the Highway District appealed. In the end, the property owner won and received an award of costs, fees and interest in addition to just compensation.
- Filed suit against a city which had blocked all access to a property, claiming an unconstitutional taking. Negotiated a voluntary sale of the property to the city, for full fair market value, with significant tax advantages to the property owner.
- Successfully litigated against a title company on behalf of a property owner in a case where there was a recorded easement across a residential property. The title company denied liability and claimed there was no damage from the existence of the easement, which bisected the property. A jury disagreed, awarding the property owner damages. Although the title company appealed, the verdict was upheld.
- Represented a commercial real estate developer in an action against a former broker and a tenant in a case where the broker had made fraudulent representations, and had accepted large payments from the tenant which were not passed on to the developer. The jury found on behalf of the developer, awarding all damages requested.
- Defended an entrepreneur sued by an investor who claimed that monies invested in the startup company were loans, not capital contributions. After a bench trial, the Judge found in favor of the entrepreneur and awarded costs and fees.
Memberships & Awards
- Washington Owner’s Counsel of America, Member
- Idaho Owner's Counsel of America, Member
- Appraisal Institute, Affiliate Member
- American Bar Association Member, Litigation Section, Real Estate, Condemnation and Trust Litigation Committee; Co-Chair of Experts Subcommittee
- International Right of Way Association (IRWA)
- Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW)
- King County Bar Association
- Martindale-Hubbell® “A/V” rating for expertise and ethics
Resources & Ideas
Seminars & Speaking Engagements
- May 18, 2018
- Lexis-Nexis Washington Real Estate Litigation Practice GuideChapter 9: Eminent Domain (2018 Update)April 2018
- Volunteer and foster home provider for cats and dogs with various animal rescue groups
- Morris Hill Neighborhood Association, Founder and former President
- Volunteer watermaster for neighborhood irrigation lateral
- Pepperdine University School of LawJuris Doctor (1996)
- Hillsdale CollegeBachelor of Arts (1993)
- Idaho State Courts
- Oregon State Courts
- Washington State Courts
- United States District Court, Idaho
- United States District Court, Colorado
- United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
- United States Supreme Courts
Outside The Office
- Traveling the world to see animals in the wild.