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Law School Case Brief

Lucas v. S.C. Coastal Council - 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S. Ct. 2886 (1992)


When a regulation strips a property of any economically beneficial use, and the use would not have been considered a nuisance by state law, the regulation is in effect a "taking" which requires that the landowner be compensated.


Petitioner landowner purchased two residential lots in South Carolina on which he intended to build homes. In 1988, the State enacted the Beachfront Management Act, which barred the landowner from erecting any permanent habitable structures on his two parcels. A state trial court found that this prohibition rendered the landowner's parcels valueless. The trial court found that the Act was a valid use of police power and thus the land owner should not be compensated. The landowner appealed and the court granted cert.


Was petitioner landowner entitled to compensation from the State under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment?




The Court held that there be a "total taking" analysis which looks to three things: 1) the degree of harm to public lands and resources, or adjacent private property, posed by the claimant's proposed activities , 2) the social value of the claimant's activities and their suitability to the locality in question, and 3) the relative ease with which the alleged harm can be avoided through measures taken by the claimant and the government (or adjacent private landowners). It would be unreasonable for the state to prevent a landowner from using their property as intended unless the could prove that the use would have been a nuisance. Here, the land was deprived of all economically beneficial use and the Court held that the state cannot regulated away all of the property's economical use.

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