Botton v. State

69 Wash. 2d 751, 420 P.2d 352 (1966)

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Botton v. State

Washington Supreme Court
69 Wash. 2d 751, 420 P.2d 352 (1966)

Facts

Washington State, acting through the Department of Game (the state) (defendant), developed a public-fishing access area on property the state acquired at Phantom Lake, a nonnavigable lake in the state. The influx of the public to use the access area not only increased the amount of fishing, but also resulted in adverse effects, including reduced property values, increased crime, public urination on private property, trash on the land and in the water, trespassing on private property, injuries to homeowners and their families from broken glass, improper use of private docks and facilities, illegal hunting and shooting, excessive speed by boats on the lake, increased noise, and the inability of riparian-property owners to use and enjoy the lake and their property. John C. Botton and other riparian-property owners on the lake (the property owners) (plaintiffs) sought an injunction against the state’s operation of the lake’s access area. The property owners asserted that the out-of-control acts of the state’s licensees—the lake’s public visitors—interfered with the property owners’ rights and enjoyment of their property. The state made little effort to control the conduct of its licensees or limit the number of licensees permitted access at any given time. The trial court ruled that the state’s handling of the access area amounted to an unlawful taking and unreasonable interference with the property owners’ rights. The court enjoined the state from allowing the public to use the property until the state had condemned the property owners’ properties by appropriate eminent-domain proceedings. The state appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, asserting that the state had riparian rights that it had the right to use for the public’s benefit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hill, J.)

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