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Pumpelly v. Green Bay Company

United States Supreme Court
80 U.S. 166 (1872)


Pumpelly (plaintiff) owned hundreds of acres of farmland close to the Fox River, the northern outlet of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Before Wisconsin became a state, work was started on the construction of a dam on the river near the lake. The Green Bay Company (defendant) came to own the dam works from its original developers. After Wisconsin became a state, its legislature adopted the plan for the dam and enacted legislation in support of the dam as part of an effort to improve navigation in the region. After the dam was completed, the water behind the dam rose to such a level that it forcibly flooded Pumpelly’s farmland. The flooding completely destroyed the usefulness of Pumpelly’s land. Pumpelly sued, alleging that the damage to the usefulness and value of his land caused by the flooding from the dam amounted to a taking by the state for which he was entitled to compensation.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Miller, J.)

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