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Kimball Laundry Co. v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

December 7-8, 1948, Argued ; June 27, 1949, Decided

No. 63

Opinion

 [*3]   [**1436]   [***1770]  MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

On November 21, 1942, the United States filed a petition 1 in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, to condemn the plant of the Kimball Laundry Company in Omaha, Nebraska, for use by the Army for a term initially expiring June 30, 1943, and to be extended from year to year at the  [***1771]  election of the Secretary of War. The District Court granted the United States immediate possession of the facilities of the company, except delivery equipment,  [****5]  for the requested period. The term was subsequently extended several times. The last year's extension was to end on June 30, 1946, but the property was finally returned on March 23, 1946.

The Kimball Laundry Company is a family corporation the principal stockholders of which are three brothers who are also its officers. The Laundry's business has been established for many years; its plant is large and well equipped with modern machinery. After the  [**1437]  Army took over the plant, the Quartermaster Corps ran it as a laundry for personnel in the Seventh Service Command. Most of the Laundry's 180 employees were retained, and one of the brothers stayed on as operating manager. Having no other means of serving its customers, the Laundry suspended business for the duration of the Army's occupancy.

 [*4]  On November 19, 1943, a board of appraisers appointed by the District Court, in accordance  [****6]  with Nebraska law, reported that "the just compensation for the value of the use of the premises taken by the United States of America is the sum of $ 74,940.00 per annum . . . ." The appraisers made no award of damages for the loss of patrons, which they recognized to be probable, because at that time the amount of the loss could not be appraised. The Government and the Laundry both appealed the appraisers' award, and the question of just compensation was tried to a jury in March of 1946. The jury awarded an annual rental of $ 70,000 -- a total of $ 252,000 for the whole term -- and $ 45,776.03 for damage to the plant and machinery beyond ordinary wear and tear. The rental award was intended to cover taxes, insurance, normal depreciation, and a return on the value of the Laundry's physical assets. Interest at the rate of 6 per cent was added from November 22, 1942, the day on which the Army took possession, on the amount due for the period between that date and June 30, 1943, and on the rental for each year thereafter from the beginning of the year until paid. Interest on the sum awarded for damage to the plant and machinery was adjudged to run from the date of the verdict,  [****7]  since the plant had not then been returned.

The Laundry appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, assigning numerous errors in the admission and exclusion of testimony and in the instructions to the jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, 166 F.2d 856, and we granted the Laundry's petition for certiorari, 335 U.S. 807, because it raised novel and serious questions in determining what is "just compensation" under the Fifth Amendment.

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338 U.S. 1 *; 69 S. Ct. 1434 **; 93 L. Ed. 1765 ***; 1949 U.S. LEXIS 2078 ****; 7 A.L.R.2d 1280

KIMBALL LAUNDRY CO. v. UNITED STATES

Prior History: CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.

A judgment of the District Court, entered on the verdict of a jury in a condemnation  [****4]  proceeding, was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 166 F.2d 856. This Court granted certiorari. 335 U.S. 807. Reversed and remanded, p. 21.

Disposition:  166 F.2d 856, reversed.

CORE TERMS

laundry, going-concern, plant, routes, occupancy, temporary, taker, purchaser, rental, physical property, intangible, customers, premises, temporary taking, market value, solicitation, condemned, patronage, cases, value of a business, business property, just compensation, tangible property, trade-routes, capitalized, contributed, expenditure, approaches, machinery, probable

Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Eminent Domain & Takings, Real Property Law, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Elements, Just Compensation, Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, General Overview, Constitutional Limits & Rights, Public Use, Just Compensation, Property Valuation, Estates, Present Estates, Fee Simple Estates, Property Valuations, Involuntary Acquisition & Diminution of Value, Takings, Title Acquired, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Admissibility, Procedural Matters, Rulings on Evidence