264 U.S. 146 (1924), 130, Sanguinetti v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 130
Citation:264 U.S. 146, 44 S.Ct. 264, 68 L.Ed. 608
Party Name:Sanguinetti v. United States
Case Date:February 18, 1924
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 146

264 U.S. 146 (1924)

44 S.Ct. 264, 68 L.Ed. 608



United States

No. 130

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 18, 1924

Argued January 3, 1924



A canal, constructed by the government to improve navigation, overflowed intermittently, flooding the claimant's land but not ousting him from his customary user, except for brief periods, or inflicting permanent injury, and it did not appear either that the flooding was intended or anticipated by the government or it officers, or that it was attributable directly, in whole or in part, to the improvement, rather than to natural conditions. Held, that no taking could be implied, and the United States was not liable ex contractu. P. 148.

55 Ct.Clms. 107 affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing a petition.

SUTHERLAND, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

The main portion of the City of Stockton, Cal., and the adjacent territory lie between the Calaveras River and the Mormon Slough, both flowing in a general southwesterly direction. The streams are several miles apart, and the intervening area, including appellant's land, has always been subject to inundation by overflow therefrom, as well as by reason of periodic heavy rainfall. During periods of high water, sediment was deposited in large quantities in the navigable channel, interfering with navigation and entailing annual expenditures for dredging.

Page 147

In view of this condition, Congress, in 1902, authorized the construction above the city of a connecting canal by means of which the waters of Mormon Slough were diverted into the Calaveras River. Act June 13, 1902, 32 Stat. 368, c. 1079. The canal was constructed in accordance with plans prepared by government engineers, after investigation, upon a right of way procured by the State of California and conveyed to the United States. A diversion dam was placed in the slough immediately below the intake of the canal. The excavated material was put on the lower side of the canal, making a levee, of which the dam was practically a continuation, but that this was not done with a view of casting flood waters upon the upper lands is apparent, since the engineers believed the capacity of the canal would prove sufficient under all circumstances. It was evidently the most convenient method of disposing of the material, and also it may have contributed to strengthen the lower bank against erosion. The canal was completed in 1910. In January, 1911, there was a flood of unprecedented severity, and there were recurrent floods of less magnitude in subsequent years, except in 1912 and 1913. The capacity of the canal proved insufficient to carry away the flood waters, which overflowed the lands of appellant, lying above the canal, damaging and destroying crops and trees, and injuring to some extent the land itself. Appellant brought suit against the government to recover damages upon the alleged theory of a taking of the property thus overflowed. The land would have been flooded if the canal had not been constructed, but to what extent does not appear. None of the land of appellant was permanently flooded, nor was it overflowed for such a length of time in any year as to prevent its use for agricultural purposes. It was not shown, either directly or [44 S.Ct. 265] inferentially, that the government or any...

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