SW Legal studies in Business

Government Construction May Affect Inverse Condemnation of Neighboring Property
Description Appeals court held that it is for a jury to determine if the claim of a home owner that new highway construction caused so much damage to her house that it made it unfit for habitation is correct. Inverse condemnation can result from actions on neighboring land and need not involve a direct taking.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Inverse Condemnation; Eminent Domain; Damage; Compensation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) condemned a five-foot strip of land at the back of Wikel's residential property. The land was used to build a retaining wall to prevent groundwater from entering a new highway built next to the strip of land. Wikel accepted $4,000 for the land and some utility easements. Wikel charged that after the DOT construction was complete, her property suffered "extensive cracks and other structural damages, including flooding damage" causing her house to become uninhabitable and unsaleable. She sued, claiming inverse condemnation of all of her property. The trial court dismissed her suit. She appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The purpose of inverse condemnation is "to protect property owners against the slothful actions of a condemnor which, having constructively taken an owner's property, is in no hurry to compensate the owner." Land may be "taken for public purposes" within the meaning of eminent domain without actual occupancy or seizure by the state. It is a matter of fact to be determined at trial if the damage caused by DOT construction was sufficient to constitute a complete taking of the property.

Citation Wikel v. State of Wisconsin, 635 N.W.2d 213 (Ct. App., Wisc., 2001)

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