South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Public Utilities Have Strong Powers of Eminent Domain to Fulfill Public Purpose
Description

Minnesota high court held that a public utility had the power of eminent domain to use a quick-take process to get title to land previously leased from the property holder. A dispute over the lease threatened the ability of the company to reliably distribute electric power.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Eminent Domain; Quick Take Procedures; Public Purpose

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Beginning in 1980, the Cooperative Power Association (CPA) leased land from McKinley for a telecommunication. In 2001, McKinley sold the land to Lundell. Lundell objected to CPA subleasing space to Sprint, but the lease said nothing about subleases. After a long dispute over the proper use of the leased land and the proper payment, CPA petitioned the district court to take title and possession of the land. Minnesota law allows a condemning authority, when reasonably required, to obtain title to the property in a "quick take" procedure. The court held for CPA, ruling that it had the power of eminent domain and could take the property for utility use for a fair market value of $154,005, which CPA paid to Lundell. Lundell appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The CPA's operation of a tower to facilitate the distribution of electric power is a public purpose. Public purpose for taking of private land through eminent domain is construed broadly. The need to continue use of the tower to provide a constant supply of electricity is a public necessity. The decision to end discussions with the property owner after two years was not an abuse of authority. Quick-take condemnation proceedings were reasonably allowed and do not constitute an uncompensated taking in violation of the Constitution. Such decisions will be overturned only when they are clearly arbitrary or unreasonable.

Citation

Lundell v. Cooperative Power Assn., 707 N.W.2d 376 (Sup. Ct., Minn., 2006)

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