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Hammond v. Madera, County of

Citation: 23 ELR 20117
No. Nos. 90-16408 et al., 974 F.2d 1342/(9th Cir., 09/02/1992)

The court holds that a California county, as a public entity and holder of the power of eminent domain, did not act in good faith when it entered private property to build improvements and thus must fully compensate the landowners for its own improvements. The court first concludes that the inapplicability of a statutory exemption, which relieves a trespassing good-faith improver that is not a public entity from having to pay for all of its own improvements, requires reliance on California common law. Applying the case law on a good-faith improver statutory standard, the court holds that the county's degree of negligence is inconsistent with good faith under California law, because the county continued its construction of the improvements and incorporated them after being notified that it had no valid right of way for its road across the property. The court orders the county to compensate the landowners the full amount for the improvements constructed as previously ordered in the condemnation proceeding. The court also holds that payment of prejudgment interest to the landowners would be excessive, because the county is paying the landowners for the current value of the land, trespass damages, and improvements it has already paid for.

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellees
Lawrence Stidham
California Indian Legal Services
P.O. Box 993, Bishop CA 93515
(619) 873-3581

Counsel for Defendant-Appellant
Michael Ott
Borton, Petrini & Conron
2014 Tulare St., Ste. 830, Fresno CA 93721
(209) 268-0117

Before Schroeder and Fletcher, JJ.