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U.S. v. 30.54 Acres of Land

July 24, 1996

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

v.

30.54 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATED IN GREENE COUNTY, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

JAMES V. FILIAGGI AND JOSEPHINE FILIAGGI, HUSBAND AND WIFE, LAWRENCE E. FILIAGGI AND HELEN FILIAGGI, HUSBAND AND WIFE, AND L&J EQUIPMENT COMPANY, INC.,

APPELLANTS *fn*



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

(D.C. Civil Action No. 92-cv-00033) Argued June 4, 1996

Before: SCIRICA and ROTH, Circuit Judges and O'NEILL, District Judge *fn**

SCIRICA, Circuit Judge.

(Filed July 24, l996)

OPINION OF THE COURT

The United States Army Corps of Engineers prohibited the use of the landowners' coal loading facility and coal tipple because they posed a danger to navigation on the Monongahela River. The landowners now seek just compensation for the deprivation of the use of their property under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and Section 111 of the River and Harbors Act of 1970, 33 U.S.C. Section(s) 595a (1988). Because the navigational servitude was a pre-existing limitation on the landowners' title to riparian land, we hold the Corps' exercise of the servitude to prohibit the use of the landowners' property was not a taking under the Fifth Amendment or Section 111.

I. Background

James Filiaggi and others (the "landowners") owned 132.55 acres on the Monongahela River in Greene County, Pennsylvania. A coal loading facility was located on the tract, and a coal tipple, grounded on the property, extended approximately one hundred feet into the Monongahela River. The tipple and coal loading facility have been used for loading coal into barges since 1914.

On January 7, 1992, in connection with the Grays Landing Lock and Dam Project, the United States, on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers, filed a complaint and declaration of taking in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The United States acquired 30.54 acres of the landowners' tract at a cost of $86,700. The Government did not acquire the remaining 102 acres of the tract on which the coal loading facility was located and on which the tipple was grounded.

Although the United States acquired neither the coal loading facility nor the tipple, the Army Corps of Engineers subsequently prohibited their operation. The Corps of Engineers concluded:

the loading and unloading of the barges at the tipple site will [create a hazard to navigation]. Due to the close proximity of the tipple to the lock and dam (approximately 1,000 ft.) the operation of the coal loading facility poses a safety hazard to the river boat pilots who would be required to maneuver in and about it and about the danger zone of the lock and dam. The operation of the facility also poses a hazard to the operation of the lock and dam. Specifically, if a barge or a river boat were to break away, there would be little if any response time to prevent it from going over the dam or causing damage thereto. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for the control and regulation of the navigation of the Monongahela River. It will not permit coal loading operations to continue in the area of the tipple. App. at 47-48.

The landowners sought over $300,000 in compensation for the loss of the use of the tipple, coal loading facility, and the remaining 102 acres in the district court. They argued the Government's prohibition on the use of the tipple and coal loading facility resulted in a taking by depriving them of all economically reasonable use of their remaining 102 acres. See Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992). They also argued that Section 111 of the River and Harbors Act mandates a determination of compensation for the remaining tract based upon its use as a coal loading facility for barges.

On the United States' motion for summary judgment, the district court held that the United States did not take the landowners' property by prohibiting the use of the tipple and coal loading facility. See Memorandum Opinion, United States v. 30.54 Acres of Land, More or Less, Situated in Greene County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 92-33, slip op. at 5 (W.D. Pa. March 15, 1995). Rather, it concluded, the United States had regulated the use of a navigable river under the "navigational" servitude, and although economic loss resulted, no compensation was due. Id. at 5-6. The district court also held that Section 111 of the River and Harbors Act does not apply to regulation of navigable waterways under the navigational servitude, id. at 7, and therefore the landowners were not entitled to compensation.

The district court had jurisdiction over this eminent domain action under 28 U.S.C. Section(s) 1358. We have jurisdiction over final orders of the district court under 28 U.S.C.  1291. Our review of the district court's grant of summary judgment is plenary. Western United Life Assur. Co. v. Hayden, 64 F.3d 833, 837 (3d Cir. 1995).


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