More than 20 landowners in Martin and Lawrence Counties, Indiana have filed their inverse condemnation claims against the federal government. These landowners own land abutting a 20.76-mile right-of-way extending from Crane to Bedford, Indiana.
The Evansville and Richmond Railroad originally acquired this rail line between 1897 and 1907. The Railroad acquired the line from several landowners who conveyed a limited easement for railroad purposes. Under Indiana law, once the Railroad abandoned the line, the landowners (and their successors) should have owned their land free and clear of any easements.
The Evansville and Richmond Railroad eventually conveyed the line and it passed through a series of subsequent owners. In 2006, the Indiana Rail Road Company acquired the line. And, in 2009, the Indiana Rail Road Company stopped using the line for railroad purposes.
On March 25, 2010, the federal Surface Transportation Board issued an order (the Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment, or NITU) which authorized the Railroad to negotiate with a trail operator for trail use. This federal order — the NITU — prevented the landowners from regaining their state law rights to the land. And, instead, the federal order allowed two new easements to be imposed on the property — one for recreational trail use and another for future railroad use at anytime in the future. In 2011, the Railroad entered into a trail use agreement with the Indiana Trails Fund, Inc. Trail construction is now underway.
The Indiana landowners filed their claims for compensation on April 18, 2014. The landowners now have a limited period to join any other neighboring landowners who wish to vindicate their constitution rights to just compensation for the government’s taking of their property. Counsel for the landowners continue to meet with all interested Martin and Lawrence County landowners to discuss their claims for compensation in this case.
For more information about this case, please contact Lindsay Brinton.