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Banks v. United States

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20102
Nos. Nos. 99-4451 et al., (Fed. Cl., 05/03/2007)

The Federal Claims Court denied the U.S. government's motion to dismiss property owners' takings claims against it in connection with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's project along the shore of Lake Michigan. The owners claimed that the Corps' construction and maintenance of jetties from 1950 to 1989 caused erosion of their shoreline property. The United States moved to dismiss, claiming that the landowners' actions were time barred. Their motion was ultimately denied. Now, the U.S. government claims that evidence has come to light since the prior court decision. Specifically, it argued that the landowners "had no justifiable uncertainty regarding the erosion to their property." Hence, their claims should be deemed time barred. The court, however, concluded that in the circumstances of this case, neither landowners without actual knowledge of the Corps' efforts to mitigate their alleged loss nor landowners who actually knew of the mitigation undertaken by the Corps are barred by the statute of limitations. The landowners' subjective knowledge may be new evidence, but the U.S. government failed to show how it is "material" to the question at hand. Hence, the court is bound by the law of the case as set forth in the prior decision. The court also held that a landowner who filed suit after the prior court decision may also go forward with its case. That landowner is in the same position as the other landowners who were held to be justifiably uncertain of the alleged takings.