Friday, May 29, 2009

Statute of limitations triggered on inverse condemnation when certiorari was filed; when they knew city deprived them of economic use of property

(Tenn. Ct. App January 15, 2009).

The issue on appeal is whether the plaintiffs' inverse condemnation action against the City of Lebanon Regional Planning Commission and its members is barred by the one-year statute of limitations. This action arises from the February 26, 2002 decision of the Planning Commission denying approval of the plaintiffs' plans for Phases II and III of Chaparral Subdivision. This inverse condemnation action was not filed until December 2, 2005; however, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a common law writ of certiorari on April 12, 2002, challenging the denial of the plans, which remained on appeal until December 16, 2004. In the writ of certiorari action, the chancellor found that the City abused its discretion in denying approval of the plans and this court affirmed that decision in an opinion filed December 16, 2004. This inverse condemnation action was filed eleven months after this court rendered its ruling in the appeal of the certiorari action. When the plaintiffs subsequently filed this action in 2005, the defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the action was time barred because the triggering event in a regulatory takings case such as this occurred on February 26, 2002, when the plans were denied by the City's Planning Commission. In response, the plaintiffs contended the action was timely because it was filed within one year of this court's decision in the writ of certiorari action. We have determined the triggering event occurred on the date the plaintiffs knew the City was depriving them of the economic use of their property, which at the very latest was April 12, 2002, when the plaintiffs' filed their petition for a writ of certiorari. We therefore reverse the ruling of the trial court and remand with instructions to grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

"A similar question was at issue in Vowell Ventures v. City of Martin, wherein the City of Martin denied a building permit application submitted by Vowell Ventures in February 1990. Id. at 435.  On October 16, 1991, Vowell Ventures filed a petition for a writ of certiorari against the City of Martin challenging the denial of a permit to construct an office building on a parcel of land owned by Vowell Ventures. Id.  The chancellor denied the petition,which Vowell Ventures appealed to this court.  On January 31, 1996, while that appeal was pending, Vowell Ventures filed an inverse condemnation action against the City of Martin." Id.  

"At issue in the appeal of the inverse condemnation action was whether the inverse condemnation action was barred by the statute of limitations set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-16- 124.  We determined it was barred by the statute of limitations, explaining: According to the record in the previous case, [the petition for writ of certiorari] was filed on October 16, 1991. Therefore, Vowell Ventures had knowledge at that time that there was a sewer line and storm drain across its property. The present action was filed January 31, 1996. Therefore, the plaintiff's action for inverse condemnation is barred by the aforementioned statute of limitations. Vowell Ventures, 47 S.W.3d at 437.  In determining that Vowell Ventures’ inverse condemnation action was barred by the statute of limitations, this court implicitly rejected the contention that the statute of limitations on the inverse condemnation action was tolled pending the appeal of the certiorari action.Id.