SW Legal studies in Business

Damage to Private Road by State Is Basis for Inverse Condemnation
Description Appeals court upheld an award of damages to the owner of a private road who suffered damage to the road from underground construction work done by the state. Such damage is inverse condemnation, and the state must compensate the property owner for the damage since the road was not dedicated to public use.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Eminent Domain; Dedication; Inverse Condemnation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Vick owned all of the property along a dead-end road. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) buried concrete drainage pipes under Vick's road to help with drainage from nearby road work. The contractors improperly put the pipes under Vick's property instead of under the road. DOT condemned a five-foot strip along the road where the pipe was buried, and paid Vick $15,000. The road then began to collapse in places due to problems from the pipes. DOT refused to fix the road, so Vick sued for inverse condemnation for damage to the private road. The jury awarded Vick $134,262. DOT appealed.

Affirmed. The jury properly determined that the road was private and had never been dedicated to public use. To perfect a claim of dedication of land, the state must show the owner's clear intent to dedicate the property to public use and must properly accept the property. That had not occurred; the state cannot simply declare a road to be public without compensation. Inverse condemnation is an issue for a jury to determine as to the measure of damages; it is not a matter controlled in detail by statute, as is a condemnation action under eminent domain. The jury properly estimated the damage to Vick's road and property from the underground drain pipes.

Citation Vick v. South Carolina Department of Transportation, 556 S.E.2d 693 (Ct. App., S.C., 2001)

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