South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Compensation for Accidental Destruction of Private Property by Government
Description Appeals court held that there was no compensation due when the police accidentally burned down a residence during a lawful arrest. Any right to compensation would have to come under the Tort Claims Act, if that applied.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Eminent Domain; Taking; Police Destruction
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Major owned a house in Florida that she used as rental property. While executing a valid search warrant against the tenants of the house, the police threw “flash-bang” grenades into the residence in an effort to startle the residents into giving up. The grenades started a fire that destroyed the residence. Major and her insurance company, who had no knowledge of any illegal activity on the part of her tenants, sued the City of St. Petersburg for taking property without just compensation. The trial court dismissed the suit; plaintiffs appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The takings clause of the Constitution was intended to restrain the arbitrary and oppressive mode of obtaining supplies for the army, and other public uses, by impressments, as was too frequently practiced during the Revolutionary War without any compensation. Damage or destruction that occurs as an unintended, incidental consequence of lawful activity by government actors does not constitute a compensable taking. Rather, any redress for incidental damage must sound in tort. Only if government actors cause damage as a result of their negligence or misconduct will a property owner have redress through a tort action.

Citation Certain Interested Underwriters v. City of St. Petersburg, --- So.2d --- (2003 WL 23094732, Ct. App., Fla., 2003)

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