United States v. Bodcaw Company, No. 78-551

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation99 S.Ct. 1066,59 L.Ed.2d 257,440 U.S. 202
Docket NumberNo. 78-551
Decision Date26 February 1979


The United States brought this condemnation action to acquire a permanent easement in land owned by the respondent. The jury determined that just compensation for the easement was $146,206, a sum about halfway between the Government's offer and the respondent's claim. The District Court granted the respondent's motion to increase the award by $20,512.50 to compensate it for the expenses of securing appraisals of the land and for the fees of expert witnesses. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the award in part, holding that the appraisal fees in this case were an appropriate part of the compensation required by the Fifth Amendment:

"Under the facts of this case, we cannot conclude that the Bodcaw Company has been made whole for the Government's taking of its land if the large amount expended by it for appraisals in order to demonstrate the unfairness of the price offered by the United States is not considered an element of just compensation." United States v. 1,380.09 Acres of Land, 574 F.2d 238, 241 (1978).1

The Fifth Amendment forbids the taking of "private property . . . for public use without just compensation." This Court has often faced the problem of defining just compensation. One principle from which it has not deviated is that just compensation "is for the property, and not to the owner." Monongahela Navigation Co. v. United States, 148 U.S. 312, 326, 13 S.Ct. 622, 626, 37 L.Ed. 463 (1893). As a result, indirect costs to the property owner caused by the taking of his land are generally not part of the just compensation to which he is constitutionally entitled. See, e. g., Dohany v. Rogers, 281 U.S. 362, 50 S.Ct. 299, 74 L.Ed. 904 (1930); Mitchell v. United States, 267 U.S. 341, 45 S.Ct. 293, 69 L.Ed. 644 (1925); Joslin Mfg. Co. v. Providence, 262 U.S. 668, 43 S.Ct. 684, 67 L.Ed. 1167 (1923). See generally 4A J. Sackman, Nichols' Law of Eminent Domain, ch. 14 (rev. 3d ed. 1977). Thus, [a]ttorneys' fees and expenses are not embraced within just compensation . . . ." Dohany v. Rogers, supra, 281 U.S. at 368, 50 S.Ct. at 302.

There may be exceptions to this general rule. This case, however, does not qualify as such an exception.2 As the dissenting judge in the Court of Appeals described this litigation, it no more than reflects "the rather typical, oft-recurring situation where the landowner is dissatisfied with the Government's valuation." 574 F.2d, at 242. The court, therefore, was in error in holding that the respondent was entitled to compensation for the costs of the appraisals it had had made.3

Perhaps it would be fair or efficient to compensate a landowner for all the costs he incurs as a result of a condemnation action. See Ayer, Allocating the Costs of Determining "Just Compensation," 21 Stan.L.Rev. 693 (1969). Congress moved in that direction with Pub.L. 91-646, 84 Stat. 1894, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 4601-4655. Among other costs which the Act placed on the Government were the property owner's reasonable litigation expenses (including attorney's fees) when a condemnation action is dismissed as being unauthorized, when the Government abandons a condemnation, or when the property owner has recovered through an inverse condemnation action under the Tucker Act. 42 U.S.C. § 4654. But such compensation is a matter of legislative grace rather than constitutional command. The respondent's appraisal expenses were not part of the "just compensation" required by the Fifth Amendment.

The petition for certiorari is granted, the judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

1 The Court of Appeals reduced the award by the amount of compensation allowed by the trial court for expert witness fees.

2 The Court of Appeals relied on its previous decision in United...

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83 cases
  • Miller v. United States, 296-74.
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • 16 d3 Abril d3 1980
    ...misplaced. That decision was summarily reversed by the United States Supreme Court on February 26, 1979, United States v. Bodcaw Co., 440 U.S. 202, 99 S.Ct. 1066, 59 L.Ed.2d 257 (1979). It seems well settled now that recovery of litigation expenses under the Uniform Relocation Act is approp......
  • Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. United States, 882-71.
    • United States
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    ...That decision was summarily reversed by the United States Supreme Court on February 26, 1979, sub nom. United States v. Bodcaw Co., 440 U.S. 202, 99 S.Ct. 1066, 59 L.Ed.2d 257 (1979), a fact noted by plaintiff in its reply brief. See also Leesona Corp. v. United States, 220 Ct.Cl. ___, ___,......
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    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
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    ...Cir.1992); see also Ruckelshaus v. Sierra Club, 463 U.S. 680, 685-686, 103 S.Ct. 3274, 77 L.Ed.2d 938 (1983); United States v. Bodcaw Co., 440 U.S. 202, 203 n. 3, 99 S.Ct. 1066, 59 L.Ed.2d 257 (1979); United States v. Waksberg, 112 F.3d 1225, 1227 (D.C.Cir. 1997); Robinson v. Overseas Milit......
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    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • 9 d4 Dezembro d4 2010
    ...of New York, 200 A.D.2d 273, 613 N.Y.S.2d 743; Walsh v. State of New York, 180 A.D.2d 290, 585 N.Y.S.2d 574; United States v. Bodcaw Co., 440 U.S. 202, 99 S.Ct. 1066, 59 L.Ed.2d 257)."( General Crushed Stone Co. v. State, 93 N.Y.2d 23, 27, 686 N.Y.S.2d 754, 709 N.E.2d 463 [1999] ). As is re......
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1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 96 No. 4, March 2021
    • 1 d1 Março d1 2021
    ...no doubt that the compensation must be a full and perfect equivalent for the property taken." Id. at 326. (6) United States v. Bodcaw Co., 440 U.S. 202, 204 (7) Almota Farmers Elevator & Warehouse Co. v. United States, 409 U.S. 470, 473-74 (1973) (quoting United States v. Reynolds, 397 ......

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