Tags: Property, Eminent domain
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In United States v. Miller et al., the government filed a complaint in eminent domain to acquire property for the relocation of the Central Pacific Railroad, which was required due to the flooding of the old right-of-way from the Central Valley Reclamation Project in California. The fair market value of the tracts involved and severance damage to lots was in question, and the trial court required the question to be reframed. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and held that the fair market value of the lands as of the date of taking, without qualification, should have been asked of the witnesses, and that this value measured the compensation to which the respondents were entitled. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution requires just compensation, which is the full and perfect equivalent in money of the property taken, putting the owner in as good a position pecuniarily as if the property had not been taken.
In eminent domain cases, the owner is entitled to the market value of what is taken, excluding any special value to the taker. Compensation for a taken part of a single tract of land must consider the value lost due to the relationship between the taken part and the whole tract. Any increase in value due to the probable taking of their lands could only arise from speculation by the owner or possible purchasers from them regarding the compensation the government would pay. The trial court's instruction to the jury was correct.
The court ruled against the respondents' claims regarding severance damage and adoption of local law. The lower court was mistaken in believing that it lacked the authority to order a judgment against those respondents who were compensated more than the jury had awarded them. The payment made to the property owner during a condemnation proceeding is provisional and not a final settlement. The District Court did not violate due process when it rendered judgment against the respondents because the money deposited was to be disbursed under the court's direction. The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed, and that of the District Court affirmed.
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