Marty v. State of Idaho

786 P.2d 524 (1989)

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Marty v. State of Idaho

Idaho Supreme Court
786 P.2d 524 (1989)

Facts

The Mud Lake area was a basin with no natural drainage outlet. The area consisted of a diked lake and adjacent low-lying farmlands. In 1984, unusually heavy spring rain added to an already high water table, creating concern that the dike might fail and cause serious flooding across thousands of acres, threatening lives and property. The county board of commissioners, other government agencies, canal companies, and water users (collectively, the agencies) (defendants) worked together to mitigate that risk. Among other efforts, they strengthened the dike, diverted excess water, and capped certain wells flowing into the lake. In April, the farmlands owned by Joe Marty and several others (the farmers) (plaintiffs) began to flood. Water remained standing on the properties throughout the year. In June, both the county commissioners and Idaho’s governor declared a state of emergency. After the farmers’ lands flooded again in 1985, the farmers sued the agencies. The farmers argued that the agencies’ actions to mitigate the flood risk, combined with a choice not to build a spillway preventing flooding specifically to the farmers’ land, had caused damage to the farmers’ property. Among other things, the farmers sought damages on an inverse-condemnation theory, arguing that the government essentially took their land without providing compensation. Regarding that claim, the government countered that it was insulated from liability by the public-necessity doctrine. The trial court granted summary judgment dismissing all the farmers’ claims. The farmers appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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