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    Property Law Legal Research Blog

    PROPERTY: Taking Land for a Private Casino Operation Was a Taking for a Public Purpose

    Posted by Gale Burns on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 @ 15:02 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 34 No 6, August 6, 2010

    Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

    In Murray v. City of Lawrenceburg, 925 N.E.2d 728 (Ind. 2010), the Supreme Court of Indiana recently held, among other things, that land being used as part of a docking site for a private riverboat casino had been taken by the City of Lawrenceburg and the Lawrenceburg Conservancy District for a public purpose or use.  In Murray, the plaintiffs alleged that they were the owners of the land at issue, and they brought an action against the City and the Conservancy District to quiet title.  The plaintiffs further alleged that in 1996 a quitclaim deed was recorded whereby a railroad company had attempted to deed the land at issue to the City.  The court, opining for the first time that inverse condemnation was an exclusive remedy, held that the plaintiffs should have sued for inverse condemnation, not to quiet title—even though the City had a deed to the property and had never attempted to "take" the property.  Accordingly, the plaintiffs were subject to the six-year statute of limitations applicable to an inverse condemnation action, which statute had expired prior to the plaintiffs' filing suit.

    Among other arguments presented to the court, the plaintiffs asserted that inverse condemnation was inapplicable because any alleged taking was not for a public use.  As alleged in the plaintiffs' complaint, the land at issue was part of a docking site for a riverboat casino operated by a private gaming company, which was leasing the land from the City.  However, the court nevertheless held that the land had been taken for a public use.  To support its conclusion, the court stated:

    Plaintiffs also argue that inverse condemnation is inapplicable here because the taking was not for a public use.  Defendants respond that providing public routes of access to a private business is a public use.  Plaintiffs are correct that, if there were no public use, neither eminent domain nor inverse condemnation would apply.  But we readily find a public use here.  Whether a particular use is a public use is a question for the courts to determine.  11A Ind. L. Enc. Eminent Domain § 10, at 254 (2007).  Specifically, in Indiana, the taking of private land to develop public access to private casinos has been held to be a public use.  E.g., City of Hammond v. Marina Entm't Complex, Inc., 733 N.E.2d 958, 962 (Ind.Ct.App.2000).  Other jurisdictions have also reached similar conclusions.  See, e.g., Detroit v. Detroit Plaza Ltd. P'ship, 273 Mich.App. 260, 730 N.W.2d 523, 527 (2006); City of Atlantic City v. Cynwyd Inv., 148 N.J. 55, 689 A.2d 712, 713‑14 (1997).

    Id. at 733.  Apparently the court was under the impression that the land at issue, which was part of a docking site for a private riverboat casino, provided a public route of access to the casino.  However, the court failed to elaborate in what way a docking site, or the land at issue, provided a public route of access (i.e., a roadway or pedestrian overpass) to the casino.  It appears that the real purpose of the docking site was to moor the privately owned riverboat casino to the shore of the Ohio River, not to provide public access to the casino.

    Topics: legal research, Alistair Edwards, eminent domain, The Lawletter Vol 34 No 6, quitclaim deed, inverse condemnation, taking

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