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To establish a prima facie cause of action for inverse condemnation, a plaintiff must allege a direct and substantial interference with the beneficial use and enjoyment of the property at issue. The interference must be repeated and not just occasional. Moreover, the interference must peculiarly affect the property at issue and result in a loss of market value. In other words, the interference must be greater than, or different from, that suffered by the general public as a whole. If the elements of the cause of action are alleged and proven, the public, and not the individual, properly assumes the burden of the cost of improvements that benefit the general public.
The plaintiffs, Richard and Jaquelyn Jackson, filed suit against the McGhee Tyson Airport in Blount County, Tennessee, alleging a cause of action for inverse condemnation due to interference in the use and enjoyment of real property caused by noise, vibration, and pollutants from airplanes that flew near, but not directly over, the plaintiffs’ property. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint, holding that they failed to state a cause of action because they did not allege a physical invasion of their property through direct overflight of aircraft. The appellate court affirmed. The plaintiffs challenged the decision.
Did the plaintiffs’ complaint state a cause of action for inverse condemnation?
On appeal, the court reversed, adopting the rule that an allegation of direct overflight was not required to establish a prima facie case of inverse condemnation. The court then stated that, to establish a prima facie case of inverse condemnation, a plaintiff had to allege a direct and substantial interference with the beneficial use and enjoyment of the property at issue. The court noted that the interference had to be repeated, not just occasional, and that the interference had to peculiarly affect the property at issue and result in a loss of market value. The court found that the plaintiffs had stated a cause of action and remanded for further proceedings.