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Alford v. United States

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20155
Nos. 2019-1678, (Fed. Cir., 06/19/2020)

The Federal Circuit reversed a Court of Federal Claims ruling that the U.S. government was liable for flooding private properties when it raised the water level of a lake in Mississippi to prevent a nearby levee from breaching. Landowners argued that raising the water level of the lake, which subsequently damaged their land, was a government taking for which just compensation was owed. The appellate court found that the lower court erred by failing to consider what would have happened if the government had allowed the levee to breach, and concluded that the relative benefits doctrine barred liability because the landowners' properties would have been "far worse off" and "suffered more serious damage" if the government had not acted. It therefore reversed the Court of Federal Claims ruling.