It’s Friday (and Valentine’s Day), so we’ll make this quick, even thought this is one of those cases with a fact pattern that you just can’t digest quickly: In Day v. Idaho DOT, No. 45552 (Feb. 14, 2020), the Supreme Court of Idaho held that only the property owners at the time of the taking may assert an inverse condemnation claim. That, standing alone (pun intended), is not surprising.

But skip forward to page 7 of the slip opinion where the court determined when the taking occurred (at the time the government action alleged to be a taking — here, an interchange — was “substantially completed,” not on the date the infrastructure project was actually completed):

This begs the following question: When did the taking in this case occur? The district court’s opinion states that “the parties stipulated that the taking occurred on December 5, 1997, when the Isaacs Canyon Interchange project was substantially completed.” In this appeal, the Day family vigorously disputes this statement, contending that they stipulated that valuation of any taking should be measured as of that date, but that accrual of their cause of action occurred subsequently. The Day family contends that their cause of action accrued when they were notified of ACHD’s refusal to permit a public street to be connected from their property to Eisenman Road and that until that time, the Isaac’s Canyon Interchange was merely a temporary interruption of their right of access to a public highway.

In support of this contention, the Day family relies on the Court of Appeals’ decision in Balivi Chemical Corporation v. Industrial Ventilation, Inc., 131 Idaho 449, 958 P.2d 606 (Ct. App. 1998). We are not persuaded by this argument. Without exploring the facts of the Balivi decision in length, we simply note that a case involving breach of a subsequent or substitute contract is inapposite to a claim of inverse condemnation.

We hold that the district court properly concluded that the date of the accrual of the cause of action was December 5, 1997, when the Isaacs Canyon Interchange was substantially completed.

Slip op. at 7.

Keep going to page 8 of the slip opinion, where the court concluded that the inverse condemnation claim in this case wasn’t one that “runs with the land,” but was a personal “chose in action” that belongs to the person who owned the property at the time of the taking. See slip op. at 8 (citing Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606, 639 (2001) (Stevens, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)). This bolstered the court’s conclusion that future owners did not have standing (although it does avoid the question of whether the owners at the time of the taking could sell or transfer their personal rights to future owners). 

Applying these two rules, the court concluded that the owners of the property in 1997, when the DOT completed the interchange, were the only plaintiffs with standing to pursue an inverse claim. 

1997? What about the statute of limitations? In Idaho, inverse condemnation is subject to a four-year limitations period. Well, four years after 1997 was … a long time ago. The court concluded, however, that the two plaintiffs with standing did not miss out because DOT’s lawyer in 2000 sent the Day family a letter which stated, “I will also represent to you that the Department will not assert any type of statute of limitations defense if an agree on new access cannot be reached.” Slip op. at 9. That was enough to induce reasonable reliance by the Day family, a question about which there remained a factual dispute. So no summary judgment on the SOL issue.

Check it out.  

Day v. Idaho Dep’t of Transporatation, No. 45552 (Idaho Feb. 14, 2020)