An Arizona alfalfa farmer’s battle against the United States took a significant step toward victory when the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix found the government must pay over $1.1 million in damages for blocking access to his farmland. The farmer leased his land from the Bureau of Land Management. After his access was blocked when a bridge was removed preventing access to the land, he sought counsel to file a suit to protect his rights. The suit was filed after the farmer was forced into bankruptcy.
Domina Law Group pc llo was approved by the Bankruptcy Court to serve as special litigation counsel for the farmer in his inverse condemnation lawsuit. The suit claimed the federal government took away a bridge that provided the only meaningful access to leased farmland. The bridge’s removal prevented the farmer from tending to and harvesting his substantial alfalfa crop.
DLGpc lawyers James F. Cann and David Domina represented the farmer. Mr Cann handled the trial.
The trial court rejected the government’s claims that no compensation was due because the bridge spanned a government irrigation canal, and that the bridge was a safety hazard. “The government did not explore other alternatives and denied access to the property by removing the bridge, which is one of the fundamental rights of a property interest holder” the Court said.
Two major issues in the case were resolved for the farmer. In a decision involving a first impression issue, the Court held the lawsuit belongs in Arizona, not in the US Federal Claims Court in Washington, where most inverse condemnation suits against the federal government must occur. The Arizona venue was approved because of the farmer’s bankruptcy.
Second, the action by the government’s officials resulting in bridge removal and access denial was not a typical “taking” of land by the government. So, the occurrence of a compensable taking under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was hotly contested. The Bankruptcy Court’s 30 page ruling for the farmer on this issue is a major victory. “Directly, or indirectly, the government cannot take private property without paying compensation to the owner.” Cann said. “Proving it is not always simple. Here, a major victory was won.”
Domina Law Group pc llo is a firm of trial lawyers. We specialize in complex litigation on a national basis. Our lawyers are ethical, aggressive, and committed to providing spirit and vitality to the judicial system and our client’s legal rights.