Five landowners owning 14 parcels of land brought a takings case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging that the United States had caused a temporary taking of their property when the Surface Transportation Board, acting under the National Trails System Act, took an easement across their land, which is located in Lafayette County, Missouri.

The taking arose when the Union Pacific Railroad, the most recent successor in interest, petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to abandon the line in 2011. The following year, the City of Lexington asked the Board to issue a Notice of Interim Trail Use and the agency did so.

Plaintiffs filed suit in 2012, and both parties moved for partial summary judgment on liability.  The Government argued against liability, contending (among other things) that the Court should allow discovery on the Arkansas Game & Fish factors regarding a temporary taking.

The Court refused,  holding that in the case before it those factors “are either immaterial to liability or can be addressed without any further discovery.” The Court summarized the rationale for its holding, denying the Government partial summary judgment except as to three parcels, and granting Plaintiffs’ motion as to liability for a temporary taking:

Plaintiffs have been deprived of the full use of their own property for over six years.  The NITU plainly caused this impact.  The nature of the taking is foreseeable, severe, not mitigated depending on the quality of the land, and could not be anticipated.  This much is undisputed and is sufficient to find a compensable temporary taking.

Read Judge Eric Bruggink’s full decision here.