Boom Co. v. Patterson

98 U.S. 403 (1878)



In determining the value of land appropriated for public purposes, the same considerations are to be regarded as in a sale of property between private parties. The inquiry in such cases must be what is the property worth in the market, viewed not merely with reference to the uses to which it is at the time applied, but with reference to the uses to which it is plainly adapted; that is to say, what is it worth from its availability for valuable uses. Property is not to be deemed worthless because the owner allows it to go to waste, or to be regarded as valueless because he is unable to put it to any use. Others may be able to use it, and make it subserve the necessities or conveniences of life. Its capability of being made thus available gives it a market value which can be readily estimated.


Plaintiff sought to condemn islands in the Mississippi River owned by the defendant in error landowner in order to build a boom across the river to hold logs. The state court appointed a commission, which made an award. Both parties appealed to the state court and the landowner applied for and obtained removal to the circuit court. The circuit court granted the landowner an award for compensation. On writ of error, the judgment awarding compensation to the landowner for the taking of his land by condemnation to build a boom across the Mississippi River to hold logs was affirmed.


Should compensation be estimated by reference to the uses for which the appropriated lands are suitable, having regard to the existing business or wants of the community? 




The Court held that it was proper for the circuit court to have taken into consideration the purposes of the land for which it was suited in order to determine the compensation that was due to the landowner.

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