California’s Constitution, like most, requires government to pay just compensation when it takes or damages private property. This has led to the development of two bodies of law — eminent domain (when government sues to acquire property or an interest in it) and inverse condemnation (when property owners sue government alleging property damage). The Legislature has provided detailed statutes to govern eminent domain, but inverse condemnation is mostly judge-made law.
The California Supreme Court had not heard an inverse condemnation case in decades until last August 2019 and it now has decided two in 11 months: City of Oroville v. Superior Court held the City was not liable for a sewer back-up into a suite of dentists’ offices (expensive property to damage!) because the dentists violated the Uniform Plumbing Code by not installing and maintaining a backwater valve. Yesterday, the Court decided Weiss v. People ex rel. Department of Transportation, concerning inverse condemnation procedures. [Disclosure: I argued for the governments in the California Supreme Court in both cases.]
We just issued a Bulletin edition of our firm newsletter detailing Weiss. You can find it here. Check it out!