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UnitedStatesv.Causby
PostedByadminOnSeptember1,2009@9:23amInInterestsInLandOfAnotherAndInNaturalResources
AffectingAnother'sLand|NoComments

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Citation.22Ill.328U.S.256,66S.Ct.1062,90L.Ed.1206(1946)
BriefFactSummary.Respondentsclaimthattheirpropertywastaken,withinthemeaningoftheFifth
Amendment,bytheregulararmyandnavyaircraftflightsovertheirhouseandchickenfarm.
SynopsisofRuleofLaw.Theairspaceisapublichighway,butifthelandowneristohavethefullenjoyment
ofhisland,hemusthaveexclusivecontrolovertheimmediatereachesoftheenvelopingatmosphere.
Facts.Respondentsown2.8acresnearanairportoutsideofGreensboro,NorthCarolina.Respondents
propertycontainedahouseandachickenfarm.Theendofoneoftherunwaysoftheairportwas2,220feet
fromRespondentsproperty,andtheglidepathpassedoverthepropertyat83feet,whichis67feetabove
thehouse,63feetabovethebarn,and18feetabovethehighesttree.TheusebytheUnitedStatesofthis
airportispursuanttoaleasebeginningJune1,1942,andendingJune30,1942,withprovisionsforrenewal
untilJune30,1967,orsixmonthsaftertheendofthenationalemergency,whicheverisearlier.TheUnited
Statesfourmotoredbombersmakeloudnoiseswhenflyingabovetheproperty,andhaveverybrightlights.
Respondentschickenfarmproductionhadtostop,because150chickenswerekilledbyflyingintowallsfrom
fright.IntheCourtofClaims,itwasfoundthattheUnitedStateshadtakenaneasementovertheproperty
onJune1,1942,andthattheval
ueofthepropertydepreciationastheresultoftheeasementwas$2,000.00.TheUnitedStatespetitioned
forcertiorari,whichwasgranted.
Issue.HastheRespondentspropertybeentakenwithinthemeaningoftheFifthAmendment?
Held.Yes.Butthecaseisremandedforadeterminationofthevalueoftheeasementandwhetherthe
easementwaspermanentortemporary.
Thecourtnotedthecommonlawdoctrineofownershipoflandextendingtotheskyabovetheland.
However,thecourtnotesthatanactofCongresshadgiventheUnitedStatesexclusivenationalsovereignty
overtheairspace.Thecourtnotedthatcommonsensemadethecommonlawdoctrineinapplicable.
However,thecourtfoundthatthecommonlawdoctrinedidnotcontrolthepresentcase.TheUnitedStates
hadconcededinoralargumentthatifflightsovertheRespondentspropertyrenderedituninhabitablethen
therewouldbeatakingcompensableundertheFifthAmendment.Themeasureofthevalueoftheproperty
takenistheownersloss,notthetakersgain.
Theairspaceisapublichighway.Butitisobviousthatifthelandowneristohavethefullenjoymentofhis
land,hemusthaveexclusivecontroloftheimmediatereachesoftheenvelopingatmosphere.Ifthiswere
nottruethenlandownerscouldnotbuildbuildings,planttreesorrunfences.
Theairspace,apartfromtheimmediatereachesabovetheland,ispartofthepublicdomain.Thecourtdoes
notsetthepreciselimitsofthelineofdemarcation.Flightsoverprivatelandarenotataking,unless,like
here,theyaresolowandfrequentastobeadirectandimmediateinterferencewiththeenjoymentofthe
land.TheCourtofClaimsmust,uponremand,determinethevalueoftheeasementandwhetheritisa
temporaryorpermanenteasement.
Dissent.ThedissentwouldreversethedecisionoftheCourtofClaimsandholdthattherehasbeennotaking
withinthemeaningoftheFifthAmendment.Thisisbecauseofthemodernnatureoftheairplane,andthe
desiretoavoidconfusion.
Discussion.Thenationalemergency,WorldWarII,meantthattheairport,whichwasnotpreviouslyusedby
largeplanes,wouldbethehometolargebombers.TheuseoftheairspaceaboveRespondentshomeand
farmwasnotaproblempreviously,becausetheflightsweresporadicandnotnearlyasloudasthebombers.

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