Compensation for Personal Property Loss

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U.S. Supreme Court Orders Compensation for loss of personal property at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The holding in Horne, et al. v. Department of Agriculture (2015) clarifies that the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies not only to real property, but also to personal property.  Thus, it is now clear that the government is required to pay just compensation to property owners for taking their real property as well as their personal property.

The High Court found that a decades-old program developed to increase raisin prices by keeping a portion of the crop off the market amounted to an unconstitutional taking of private property and that the owners of the raisins should be compensated for the value of their crop that was removed from the market.

In Horne, a group of Fresno, CA, raisin farmers refused to recognize the government program aimed at increasing raisin prices by removing some raisins from the market.  The government then imposed a fine.  The Hornes filed suit, challenging the program as an unlawful taking of private property for public use.  The Ninth Circuit held that the reserve requirement was not a Fifth Amendment taking because personal property is afforded less protection under the Takings Clause than real property.  The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, stating “[t]he Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.”  In this case, the fair market value of the raisins came in just over $483,000.00.

Take away:  Private property owners should not take the government’s “word for it.”  Be conscientious and take action if a public agency has caused you damage because of its behavior in taking away property or a property right without paying just compensation.

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Ms. Kristen S. Steinke’s practice focuses on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, land use and real property-related litigation.  She represents public entities, land owners, developers, small businesses, contractors, and subcontractors. Native to San Diego, Ms. Steinke was the Chair of the Eminent Domain Section of the San Diego County Bar from 2013-2015 and is also a member of the San Diego chapter of Lawyers Club.

Ms. Steinke is a part of the LAND Practice Group

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