The Fifth Amendment provides that private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation. This provision does not prohibit the taking of private property, but instead places a condition on the exercise of that power. This basic understanding of the amendment makes clear that it is designed not to limit the governmental interference with property rights per se, but rather to secure compensation in the event of otherwise proper interference amounting to a taking. Thus, government action that works a taking of property rights necessarily implicates the constitutional obligation to pay just compensation.
Appellant property owner filed a complaint after appellee county had adopted an ordinance in response to a flood that destroyed a portion of appellant's property. The complaint sought to recover in inverse condemnation and sought damages for the loss of use of a portion of the property. The trial court found in favor of appellee county and the appellate court affirmed, holding that appellant could not recover for damages for the time before it was finally determined that the regulation constituted a taking of appellant's property. The Supreme Court found probable jurisdiction and reversed the appellate court's decision.
Did the contested regulation entitle the owner to compensation for the period before determination that the regulation effected "taking" under Fifth Amendment?
The Court found that U.S. Const. amends. V and XIV required that appellee compensate appellant for that period of time. The Court concluded that appellee's actions already constituted a taking and, therefore, no subsequent action by appellee could relieve it of the duty to compensate appellant for the period during which the taking was effective.