United States v. Petty Motor Co

Citation327 U.S. 372,90 L.Ed. 729,66 S.Ct. 596
Decision Date25 February 1946
Docket NumberNos. 77,s. 77
PartiesUNITED STATES v. PETTY MOTOR CO. and six other cases. to 3
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

See 327 U.S. 818, 66 S.Ct. 813 Mr.Arnold Raum, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Shirley P. Jones, of Salt Lake City, Utah, for respondent.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This writ of certiorari under Judicial Code § 240, 28 U.S.C.A. § 347, brings here for review certain problems relating to the just compensation for tenants in condemnation proceedings to take their entire leaseholds when the United States had already taken over the lessors' interest in the property which the tenants occupy. Certiorari was granted to consider the holding of the Circuit Court of Appeals, 10 Cir., 147 F.2d 912, affirming the judgments of the District Court, that evidence by a tenant of the costs of moving and reinstallation of equipment was admissible to establish the value of his leasehold under the rule announced in United States v. General Motors Corporation, 323 U.S. 373, 65 S.Ct. 357, 156 A.L.R. 390. As this issue presents an important phase of the law of eminent domain,1 we granted certiorari. 325 U.S. 848, 65 S.Ct. 1571.

These cases arise out of a petition for condemnation of the temporary use for public purposes of a building in Salt Lake City, Utah, filed November 9, 1942, which sought to take the use of the building for the Government through June 30, 1945, with the right of election upon the part of the United States to surrender the premises on June 30, 1943, or June 30, 1944, upon sixty days written notice to the owner.2 The owner and tenants were parties defendant. An order for immediate possession was entered on November 11, 1942, subject to authorization to the tenants to continue their occupation of their premises for short periods which varied from six to twenty days.

While the condemnation proceedings were pending the owner of the property made arrangements with the United States which resulted in the dismissal of the action against the owner. There is no claim by the United States that this arrangement released it from liability to the tenants for its taking of their leaseholds. As the value of the use of the totality of property, which was taken, thus lost all meaning, the Government accepts a separate responsibility to compensate the tenants for any legally recognized interest which they may have in the property. See Duckett & Co. v. United States, 266 U.S. 149, 45 S.Ct. 38, 69 L.Ed. 216.

Although an earlier surrender might occur by the election of the United States, the estate sought did not necessarily expire until June 30, 1945. Prompt possession was required from the tenants and all of them 'were required by the order of possession to vacate' the premises which they occupied within various short periods of which twenty days was the longest. The judgments stated the issue was the amount due the tenants for the taking of their occupancy of their premises and found in dollars the just compensation for the rights taken. These facts we conclude, resulted in the taking by the United States of the temporary use of the building until June 30, 1945. When the shortening of the term is wholly at the election of the lessee, the term of the leasehold for the purpose of determining the extent of the taking must be considered to be its longest limit.3 All rights of all the tenants, except the Independent Pneumatic Tool Company, which is one of the respondents here, terminated before the end of the Government's lease by the lapse of time or in the case of the Tool Company by a 'termination on condemnation' clause. With the exception of the Petty Motor Company and the Independent Pneumatic Tool Company, the tenants were tenants under oral contracts on a month to month basis. This entitled them only to notice of termination fifteen days prior to the end of a rental period. Utah Code Ann. (1943), Title 104—60—3(2). The Petty Motor Company held a lease which expired October 31, 1943, with an option for an additional year. Consequently its rights under its lease ended before those which the Government sought by its petition.

The lease of the Independent Pneumatic Tool Company included a clause for its termination on the Federal Government's entry into possession of the leased property for public use.4 The events connected with the Government's entry just set out appear to meet the requirements for termination. This does not seem to be controverted. The contention of the Tool Company, as we understand it, is that the tenant is barred from claiming 'any of the award of the landlord' but that the condemnor is not relieved of liability to the lessee. This position seems inconsistent. If the Tool Company, with its termination on condemnation clause, was the only tenant and condemnation of all interests in the property was decreed, the landlord would take the entire compensation because the lessee would have no rights against the fund. There would appear to be no greater right where the landlord has been otherwise satisfied. Condemnation proceedings are in rem, Duckett & Co. v. United States, 266 U.S. 149, 45 S.Ct. 38, 69 L.Ed. 216; United States v. Dunnington, 146 U.S. 338, 350—354, 13 S.Ct. 79, 82—84, 36 L.Ed. 996, and compensation is made for the value of the rights which are taken. United States v. General Motors Corporation, 323 U.S. 373, 379, 65 S.Ct. 357, 360, 156 A.L.R. 390. The Tool Company had contracted away any rights that it might otherwise have had. We are dealing here with a clause for automatic termination of the lease on a taking of property for public use by governmental authority. With this type of clause, at least in the absence of a contrary state rule, the tenant has no right which persists beyond the taking and can be entitled to nothing.5

In orde to inform the jury as to the value of the tenants' interests where there was a right to continue the occupation of their respective premises, the trial court permitted the introduction of evidence, over the Government's objections, not only as to the value on the market of the use and occupancy, over and above the agreed rent, for any remainder of a term which may have existed in the respective tenants after they were dispossessed, but also allowed evidence of the expenses incurred in moving and the reinstallation of equipment. The trial court's instructions made clear that the evidence was submitted to the jury not for a finding on the cost to the tenants of relocating their businesses but as an element in determining the 'value' of their tenancies for that portion of their term which was left upon the termination of the lease. The admission of the evidence and its submission to the jury was approved by the Circuit Court of Appeals on the theory that consideration of such elements of cost was compelled by the General motors case, 323 U.S. 373, 65 S.Ct. 357, 156 A.L.R. 390. The Court of Appeals recognized that here the Government took the entire term of all the lessees except the Tool Company and possibly the Petty Motor Company but was of the opinion that the principles of the General Motors case applied when any leasehold was taken. 147 F.2d 912, 914. In so holding, the Court of Appeals was in error.

The Constitution and the statutes do not define the meaning of just compensation. But it has come to be recognized that just compensation is the value of the interest taken. This is not the value to the owner for his particular purposes or to the condemnor for some special use but a so-called 'market value.' It is recognized that an owner often receives less than the value of the property to him but experience has shown that the rule is reasonably satisfactory. Since 'market value' does not fluctuate with the needs of condemnor or condemnee but with general demand for the property, evidence of loss of profits, damage to good will, the expense of relocation and other such consequential losses are refused in federal condemnation proceedings. Mitchell v. United States, 267 U.S. 341, 344, 45 S.Ct. 293, 294, 69 L.Ed. 644; United States ex rel. T.V.A. v. Powelson, 319 U.S. 266, 281, 63 S.Ct. 1047, 1055, 57 L.Ed. 1390; Potomac Electric Power Co. v. United States, 66 App.D.C. 77, 85 F.2d 243; Orgel, Valuation under Eminent Domain, chap. V. For the purposes of these cases, it is immaterial whether the Government actually took the leaseholds of the tenants in addition to taking the temporary use of the fee or only destroyed the tenants' right of occupancy. If any property is taken, compensation is required. Cf. United States v. Welch, 217 U.S. 333, 30 S.Ct. 527, 54 L.Ed. 787, 28 L.R.A.,N.S., 385, 19 Ann.Cas. 680.

There was a complete taking of the entire interest of the tenants in the property. It has been urged that to measure just compensation for the taking of a leasehold by its value on the market or by the difference between a fair rental as of the time of taking and the agreed rent, is unfair. It is said the unfairness comes from the fact that there is really no market for leaseholds; that their value is something peculiarly personal to the lessee.6 The same thing is true as to incidental and consequential damages to the owner of a fee. We think the sounder rule under the federal statutes is to treat the condemnation of all interests in a leasehold like the condemnation of all interests in the fee. In neither situation should evidence of the cost of removal or relocation be admitted. Such costs are apart from the value of the thing taken. They are personal to the lessee.7 The lessee would have to move at the end of his term unless the lease was renewed. The compensation for the value of his leasehold covers the loss from the premature termination except in the unusual situation where there is a higher cost for present relocation than for future.

United States v. General Motors Corporation was a different case. In it only a portion of the...

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