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Inverse Condemnation

Reference Number: MTAS-1303
Reviewed Date: 10/06/2023

As noted in a previous section, the Tennessee Constitution’s Article I, Section 21, prohibits the taking of private property for public use without the payment of just compensation. A property owner whose property is taken for a public use without the payment of just compensation has a remedy for the taking in a “reverse condemnation“ or “inverse condemnation“ action. T.C.A. § 29-16-123. [1] But, this statute does not provide authority to file suit for inverse condemnation in a state court against the state. [1A] The property owner also may bring an action for trespass in a proper case and is not limited to proceeding by the statutory method prescribed for inverse condemnation actions. The property owner who sues for damages in a trespass action may also recover punitive damages in an appropriate case. [2]

Inverse condemnation claims have been classified by the courts into two general categories: (1) physical takings, and (2) regulatory takings. [3] Physical takings occur where property in addition to that previously condemned in formal proceedings is taken by the condemner without paying just compensation to the property owner, [4] or where an entity with the power of eminent domain appropriates private property for public use without instituting formal condemnation proceedings. [5] Regulatory takings occur when a regulation adopted under the police power denies an owner economically viable use of his or her property. [6]

Federal takings cases had included the test of whether a regulation substantially advances a legitimate state interest to determine if a taking had occurred, but this test has been abrogated. [7]

[1] Phillips v. Montgomery Cnty., 442 S.W.3d 233 (Tenn. 2014); Johnson City v. Greeneville, 222 Tenn. 260, 435 S.W.2d 476 (1968). For application of class action provisions to inverse condemnation actions, see Meighan v. U.S. Sprint Communications Co., 924 S.W.2d 632 (Tenn. 1996).

[1A] Hise v. State, 968 S.W.2d 852 (Tenn. App. 1997).

[2] Meighan v. U.S. Sprint Communications Co., supra; See also Johnson v. City of Mt. Pleasant, 713 S.W.2d 659 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1985).

[3] Phillips v. Montgomery Cnty., supra; Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886, 120 L.Ed.2d 798 (1992); Yee v. City of Escondido, 503 U.S. 519, 112 S.Ct. 1522, 118 L.Ed.2d 153 (1992).

[4] Morgan County v. Neff, 36 Tenn. App. 407, 256 S.W.2d 61 (1952); Carter County v. Street, 36 Tenn. App. 166, 252 S.W.2d 803 (1952); Knox County v. Lemarr, 20 Tenn. App. 258, 97 S.W.2d 659 (1936); Shelby County v. Dodson, 13 Tenn. App. 392 (1930).

[5] Pleasant View Utility District v. Vradenburg, 545 S.W.2d 733 (Tenn. 1977); Knox County v. Moncier, 224 Tenn. 361, 455 S.W.2d 153 (1970); Johnson City v. Greeneville, supra; Burchfield v. State, 774 S.W.2d 179 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988); Jones v. Cocke County, supra; Osborne Enterprises, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga, 561 S.W.2d 160 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1977).

[6] Phillips v. Montgomery Cnty., supra.

[7] Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., 125 S. Ct. 2074 (2005).