Caponi v. Carlson

Decision Date26 August 1986
Docket NumberNo. C0-86-44,C0-86-44
PartiesAnthony CAPONI, Appellant, v. Arnold CARLSON, et al., Respondents, City of Eagan, Respondent, Bonestroo, Rosene & Anderlik, et al., Defendants.
CourtMinnesota Court of Appeals

Page 591

392 N.W.2d 591
Anthony CAPONI, Appellant,
Arnold CARLSON, et al., Respondents,
City of Eagan, Respondent,
Bonestroo, Rosene & Anderlik, et al., Defendants.
No. C0-86-44.
Court of Appeals of Minnesota.
Aug. 26, 1986.
Review Denied October 25, 1986.

Page 592

Syllabus by the Court

1. The trial court erred in determining that the City of Eagan did not take appellant's land for public use without just compensation.

2. The trial court did not err in its determination of damages.

Thomas J. Rooney, Rooney & Neilson, Ltd., St. Paul, for appellant.

Edward Meisinger, Jr., Meisinger & Meisinger, West St. Paul, for respondents.

Kevin Eide, Hauge, Smith & Eide, Eagan, for respondent, City of Eagan.

Heard, considered and decided by PARKER, P.J., and WOZNIAK and SEDGWICK, JJ.


PARKER, Judge.

This appeal is from a trial court's determination that the City of Eagan did not take appellant Anthony Caponi's land for use as a storm water holding pond without compensating him. Caponi contends the city's action in designating a portion of his property as a storm water retention pond and the subsequent operation of the pond constitute a taking in violation of the U.S. Constitution, amend. V, and Minn. Const. art. 1, § 13. Respondents filed notices of review claiming that (1) by requesting a bifurcated trial and proceeding on the taking issue, Caponi waived his claim against the remaining defendants; (2) the action is barred by the statute of limitations and the doctrine of laches; (3) damages are barred by the "reasonable use" doctrine; (4) damages should be reduced to reflect the benefit to Caponi; (5) the finding of no taking is res judicata as to the city's liability for damages in a negligence theory; and (6) the evidence does not support the damage determination. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Caponi commenced this lawsuit in 1978, claiming that a portion of his land, once intermittently wet and dry, is now permanently flooded and unusable. He sued Arnold Carlson, an adjoining property owner, and the developers of Carlson's property, accusing them of purposely flooding his land by damming the outlet that had channeled the natural flow of water off Caponi's property. The engineering firm that designed and installed the city's storm water drainage system was also included as a defendant. Caponi also sued the City of Eagan, alleging that it took a portion of his land for use as a storm water holding pond without compensating him in violation of U.S. Const. amend. V and Minn. Const., art. 1, § 13.

Caponi settled with some of the defendants before trial and executed Pierringer releases as to the city's engineering firm, Tilsen Homes, and Robert Tilsen individually. After the first part of a bifurcated trial, the district court determined that there was no taking. Caponi appealed that finding to this court. We dismissed as premature because the damage issue had not been litigated. Following the second trial on the damage claim, the trial court found that Caponi sustained $55,000 in damages and that Carlson, the city, Tilsen, and the engineering firm were each 25 percent liable. The trial court denied the parties' request for amended findings. This appeal followed.

Caponi purchased land and built a home in Eagan in 1950. In 1957 he purchased an additional 43 acres south of his homesite that is the subject of this appeal. Caponi testified that he fenced the 43 acres and began grazing cattle on it in 1970. Quigley Lake (also known as Caponi's Pond or L.P.-43) is located on his land. Caponi owns nearly all the bed of the pond except for a small portion owned by Carlson. Caponi testified that the pond was wet only part of the time and referred to it as a swamp.

Page 593

In about 1915 or 1916, an area property owner dug a drainage ditch between Quigley Lake and Carlson Lake, a small pond to the south. The ditch was about one foot deep and one foot wide near Caponi's pond and gradually expanded to four feet deep and one and a half feet wide near Carlson Lake. In the spring, water from Caponi's pond would rise and flow through the ditch for about two weeks. Between 1916 and 1974, the water level of Caponi's pond fluctuated. Occasionally the pond basin would remain underwater throughout the summer. Sometimes a portion of it would remain flooded while other areas would become dry enough to till. At other times the pond would dry up completely. Caponi testified that until 1974 he had access to all of his land and would only "get his shoes wet walking the fence line." Caponi installed a new fence in 1970 that is now nearly submerged.

In a 1972 report on storm water drainage, the city designated about 12 acres of Caponi's property as a storm water retention pond. This report, prepared by the city's consulting engineers, was adopted by the city. At trial one of the city's engineering consultants testified that holding ponds are a less expensive method of storm water drainage than other options, such as storm sewer pipes. The report included a layout of the storm water sewer trunk system, ponding areas and drainage districts. It also established pond high-water levels and set the required storage amounts.

The report contained some cost estimates but did not include expenses for acquisition of ponding easements. The report stated:

It has been assumed in all cases that the necessary ponding areas will be dedicated for drainage purposes and therefore land costs are not included in the cost estimates. In most cases, land designated for ponding area is of marginal quality and this should be taken into consideration if acquisition is necessary.

During the fall of 1974, respondent Carlson constructed a berm across the drainage way at the northwest corner of Quigley Lake on his own land. Carlson testified that he constructed the berm without the participation of any other parties. Caponi claimed Carlson told him the berm would only be temporary and that he would eventually restore the natural drainage.

However, during the summer of 1976 Carlson eliminated the drainage ditch at the south entry to Carlson Lake. At the same time, Carlson began developing land in this area into a community of single-family homes. As part of its plat approval procedure, the city required streets and utilities to be constructed consistent with the storm water drainage plan and also required installation of an outflow culvert from Quigley Lake. The city's consulting engineers determined that the outflow elevation prior to Carlson's dam construction was at an 850-foot elevation. The city initially planned for the new outflow culvert to be placed at the same elevation. The culvert was built at 851.06 feet.

A 12-inch outlet pipe was constructed in 1977. By that time, inlet pipes had also been installed. All this was done without required permits from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The water remained standing in the pond, and since 1978 the water level has held fairly constant at 851.2 feet above sea level. According to a DNR report, the pipe is the only outlet from the lake and controls its elevation. The pond is now permanent.

The city prepared another storm water drainage report and master plan in 1978. This plan included an inventory of existing ponds, including Quigley Pond. According to the 1972 report, approximately 134 acres of...

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3 cases
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Continental Development Corp.
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • 25 Agosto 1997
    ... ... City of Deer Park (Tex.1994) 882 S.W.2d 824, 827-828; State v. Modica (La.Ct.App.1987) 514 So.2d 22, 24; Caponi v. Carlson (Minn.Ct.App.1986) 392 N.W.2d 591, 596; State v. Montgomery Ward Development Corp. (1986) 79 Or.App. 457, 464-466, 719 P.2d 507; State ... ...
  • Nolan and Nolan v. City of Eagan, No. A03-616.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • 30 Diciembre 2003
    ...where landowner's property had remained flooded for past three years and it appeared likely flooding would continue); Caponi v. Carlson, 392 N.W.2d 591 (Minn.App.1986) (concluding that a taking occurred where city utilized landowner's land as a storm water holding pond, land was permanently......
  • Love v. Burlington Northern, Inc.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • 9 Junio 1987
    ...granting of the permit constitutes a taking: Nelson v. Wilson, 239 Minn. 164, 58 N.W.2d 330 (1953); Spaeth; and Caponi v. Carlson, 392 N.W.2d 591 (Minn.Ct.App.1986), pet. for rev. denied, (Minn. Oct. 29, In Nelson, the State built two dams which caused flooding in surrounding lands due in p......

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