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Griggs v. Allegheny Cnty.

United States Supreme Court
369 U.S. 84 (1962)


Allegheny County (defendant) acquired land to build and operate an airport. The land was adjacent to a house owned by Griggs (plaintiff). One of the airport’s runways ended 3,250 feet from Griggs’ house, and the planes landing on and taking off from the runway were required to fly within an area that ended approximately 11 feet above Griggs’ chimney. The planes regularly flew over Griggs’ house with between 30 and 300 feet of clearance. The resulting noise significantly interfered with Griggs’ enjoyment of the house: when planes flew over it was impossible to hold conversations, talk on the telephone, or sleep. The resulting vibrations caused damage to the house and harmed the health of the occupants. Additionally, if a plane were to have engine trouble when taking off from the runway, it would likely collide with the house. Griggs filed suit in state court, claiming that the County had taken an air easement over his property that constituted a “taking” requiring compensation under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (which makes the Fifth Amendment applicable to actions by state governments). The trial court determined that the County had taken an air easement over Griggs’ property, and that Griggs was entitled to compensation of $12,690. The County appealed, and the state supreme court held that if there had been a taking, the County was not liable to Griggs. Griggs appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Douglas, J.)

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