Fed. Dist. Court in MO Finds Support for a Taking Claim but No Due Process Violation

This post was authored by Sebastian Perez, JD

Plaintiffs William Becker and Darcy Lynch (“Plaintiffs”), acting as co-trustees, filed a property rights lawsuit against the City of Hillsboro, Missouri (the “City”) for inverse condemnation, alleging that the city took private property without providing compensation . Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that their constitutional rights under 42 USC § 1983 have been violated. Before the United State District Court of Missouri, Eastern Division (the “Court”) was the City’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs were co-trustees of the Antoinette Ogilvy Trust (the “Trust”) that included a piece of real property in Jefferson County, Missouri (the “Property”). The Property was annexed to the City in 2000, with the understanding that the City would provide necessary services within a reasonable time. The Property was zoned for residential use, and the Trust had subdivided it into eight residential lots for single-family homes. However, city ordinances prohibited the development or occupation of residences without access to a water source, and drilling wells for water on any property within the city was also prohibited. The Plaintiffs argued that the cost of extending the water system to their property was excessively high and made the property economically unfeasible to develop or use.

Plaintiffs’ petition included three causes of action: Count I alleged inverse condemnation under Missouri state law, Count II asserted inverse condemnation under the US Constitution, and Count III asserted a claim under 42 USC § 1983, alleging a violation of their due process rights. The City argued that the Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for each cause of action.

On the first claim, the City argued that the Plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege an affirmative act by the City to support their claim. The City asserted that the allegations focused on their failure to take action rather than an affirmative act of taking property. The City contended that the government’s inaction did not give rise to a claim of inverse condemnation. The Court, however, found that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged affirmative government actions, such as zoning the property, enacting regulations, refusing to grant a variance, and assessing excessive costs for water services. The Court determined that the allegations supported the claims of inverse condemnation and regulatory takings.

For the Plaintiffs’ due process claim under 42 USC § 1983, the City argued that the Plaintiffs had not identified the property interest they had been deprived of and had failed to provide factual allegations regarding the deprivation process. The City asserted that the Plaintiffs’ claim lacked the necessary elements to establish a procedural due process violation. The Court agreed with the City’s argument and determined that the Plaintiffs’ due process claim was either duplicative of their taking claims or inadequately alleged. The Court decided to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ due process claim of the complaint without prejudice and allowed the Plaintiffs to amend their claim if they could provide sufficient grounds for a due process violation.

Therefore, the Court denied in part the City’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ first two claims but granted the City’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ third claim.

Beck v City of Hillsboro, MO, 2023 WL 2734079 (ED Mo. 3/31/2023)