Landowner Entitled to Compensation for Railroad Right of Way Converted to Recreational Trail.

Plaintiffs owned Kansas property abutting a 2.88-mile stretch of rail corridor. Their predecessors in interest had granted the corridor in question to a railroad company, and the corridor was actively used by a successor railroad company until 2004. The corridor was then converted to a recreational trail pursuant to the National Trail Systems Act, 16 U.S.C.S. § 1247(d). The plaintiffs filed an action alleging that the trail conversion constituted a taking for which they were entitled under the Fifth Amendment to compensation. The lower court ordered that the plaintiffs did not possess a fee-simple property interest that could have been the subject of a taking. The plaintiffs argued on appeal that the interests conveyed by their predecessors to the railroad were easements only. The appellate court affirmed as to one plaintiff, finding that her predecessor had conveyed the land to the railroad company in fee simple. Thus, she had no interest remaining in the property. The court reversed, however, as to two other plaintiffs, remanding for further proceedings. The court found that one plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest had conveyed only an easement to the railroad company. As such, that plaintiff retained a fee simple in the land and was entitled to compensation. The court was unable to determine from the facts in the record whether the remaining plaintiff had a fee simple interest in the property at issue. Thus, further proceedings were ordered on remand.  Biery v. United States, No. 2013-5082, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 10361 (Fed. Cir. Jun. 4, 2014).

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