United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
EQUITRANS, L.P., a Pennsylvania limited partnership, Plaintiff,
0.56 ACRES MORE OR LESS OF PERMANENT EASEMENT LOCATED IN MARION COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA, JEFFERY J. MOORE and SANDRA J. MOORE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO AMEND THE JUDGMENT AND AMENDING JUDGMENT
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a condemnation action brought under the Natural Gas Act, 15
U.S.C. § 171f(h). After a trial on the issue of just
compensation owed to the defendants (“the
Moores”), the jury returned a verdict of $5, 000. The
Moores then filed a motion under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e) to amend the judgment. ECF No. 118.
Specifically, the Moores request the addition of prejudgment
interest to the amount of the judgment. The plaintiff,
Equitrans, L.P. (“Equitrans”), filed a response
in which it agrees that the Moores should receive prejudgment
interest at a rate of 7% per annum. For the following
reasons, the Moores' motion is granted and the judgment
cause of action arises out of federal law, federal law
governs the potential remedies, including the availability
and rate of prejudgment interest. Monessen Sw. Ry. Co. v.
Morgan, 486 U.S. 330, 335 (1988); see also
Carpenters Dist. Counsel of New Orleans & Vicinity v.
Dillard, 15 F.3d 1275, 1288 (5th Cir. 1994). The general
federal interest statute does not provide for prejudgment
interest. See 28 U.S.C. § 1961. Thus, to
determine whether prejudgment interest should be awarded,
courts must determine whether the federal statute creating
the cause of action precludes prejudgment interest.
Morgan, 486 U.S. at 336-39; Dillard, 15
F.3d at 1288. If prejudgment interest is not precluded by
statute, then the court must consider whether prejudgment
interest will further the congressional policies underlying
the statute. Dillard, 15 F.3d at 1288. If so, then
the court has discretion to award prejudgment interest.
condemnation arises under the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C.
§ 717-717w. The Natural Gas Act's condemnation
provision, 15 U.S.C. § 717f(h), does not expressly
permit or prohibit an award of prejudgment interest. Congress
originally intended for courts to apply the practice and
procedure for condemnation action of the state in which the
property sits. This mandate has been abrogated by the
addition of Rule 71.1 (formerly 71A) in the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. However, the substantive law of the state in
which the property sits still applies to determine the just
compensation owed. See Bison Pipeline, LLC v. 102.84
Acres of Land, 560 F. App'x 690, 695-96 (10th Cir.
2013); Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. v. Exclusive
Natural Gas Storage Easement, 962 F.2d 1192, 1195-99
(6th Cir. 1992). West Virginia's eminent domain law
provides for the award of prejudgment interest as part of
just compensation. W.Va. Code § 54-2-12. Similarly,
federal law in direct condemnation actions provides for an
award of prejudgment interest as part of just compensation.
See United States v. Eltzroth, 124 F.3d 632 (4th
Cir. 1997). Further, this Court has previously awarded
prejudgment interest in condemnation actions brought under
the Natural Gas Act. See Hardy Storage Co., LLC v. Prop.
Interests Necessary to Conduct Gas Storage Operations in
Oriskany Sandstone Subterranean Geological Formation
Beneath, No. 2:00CV5, 2009 WL 689054 (N.D. W.Va. Mar. 9,
2009). Thus, this Court finds that prejudgment interest
should be awarded to fully compensate the Moores for the
taking of their property. Further, this Court finds that it
is appropriate to apply West Virginia's prejudgment
Virginia Code § 56-6-31(b) provides that the prejudgment
interest rate is “three percentage points above the
Fifth Federal Reserve District secondary discount rate in
effect on the second day of January of the year in which the
judgment . . . is entered” but that the rate
“shall not exceed eleven percent per annum or be less
than seven percent per annum.” W.Va. Code §
56-6-31(b). The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
annually determines the applicable interest rate for
judgments entered during each calendar year. Id. For
2017, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals set the
interest rate at 7% per annum. See Administrative
Order ( W.Va. Jan. 5, 2017), available at
The date of condemnation was June 18, 2015 and the judgment
in this civil action was effective on January 18, 2017. Thus,
interest shall have accrued for 580 days at a rate of 7% per
annum. Accordingly, the Moores are entitled to $556.16 in
accrued prejudgment interest. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter an
amended judgment in the amount of $5, 556.16.
above reasons, the Moores' motion to amend the judgment
under Rule 59(e) (ECF No. 118) is GRANTED. Accordingly, the
Clerk is DIRECTED to enter an amended judgment in the amount
of $5, 556.16.
Clerk is DIRECTED to transmit a copy of this memorandum
opinion and order to counsel of record herein and to the
Clerk of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit regarding the Moores' notice of appeal filed in
this civil action on February 17, 2017 (ECF No. 119). The
Clerk is further DIRECTED to prepare an amended judgment in
accordance with this memorandum and order.
This Court applied the following
calculation: 5, 000 x (0.07/365) x 580 = 556.16. In its
response, Equitrans calculated the amount of interest owed as
556.80. That ...