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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues one today

In Gloria A. Murray, et al. v. The City of Lawrenceburg, et al., an 8-page, 5-0 opinion on an interlocutory appeal, Justice Boehm writes:

We hold that inverse condemnation is the sole remedy for a governmental act that purports to exercise all rights of ownership over a parcel of land. We also hold that the six year statute of limitations for trespass applies to such a claim. As a result, the statute of limitations bars the plaintiffs’ suit in 2005 seeking to claim ownership of land leased in 1997 by the City of Lawrenceburg to a private party. * * *

Plaintiffs argue as a threshold contention that inverse condemnation is inappropriate because the title to the parcel is clouded. They claim that a quiet title action is therefore the appropriate means to establish the rightful owner. We disagree. Ownership of an interest in the property is an element of a claim for inverse condemnation. If plaintiffs did not own the parcel, they had no claim at all. If they did own it, then the remedy was inverse condemnation. * * *

Plaintiffs also argue that inverse condemnation is inapplicable here because the taking was not for a public use. Defendants respond that providing public routes of access to a private business is a public use. Plaintiffs are correct that, if there were no public use, neither eminent domain nor inverse condemnation would apply. But we readily find a public use here. Whether a particular use is a public use is a question for the courts to determine. 11A Ind. L. Enc. Eminent Domain § 10, at 254 (2007). Specifically, in Indiana, the taking of private land to develop public access to private casinos has been held to be a public use. * * *

Defendants argue that this case is barred by the six year limitation period for “Actions for injuries to property other than personal property.” I.C. § 34-11-2-7(3). Plaintiffs contend the residual ten-year limitation period applies. I.C. § 34-11-1-2(a).

No limitation period applies to an eminent domain proceeding by the state. To the extent plaintiffs have a claim, it is an inverse condemnation claim by the alleged owners. Acts constituting unlawful occupation of land by a public agency would be a trespass if committed by a private entity. In both cases, a party without an interest in the property physically disturbs and injures the property. A trespass action has long been held to be governed by the six year limitations period. * * *

Plaintiffs’ action accrued when they could have brought a claim for inverse condemnation. 18 Ind. L. Enc. Limitation of Actions § 30, at 622–24 (2003). Giving plaintiffs the benefit of the doubt, the last possible date the action could have accrued was December 1997, when Indiana Gaming began operations at the site. Plaintiffs did not file this suit until November 21, 2005, almost eight years after the action accrued. Accordingly, plaintiffs’ claim is barred by I.C. § 34-11-2-7.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 20, 2010 01:34 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions