In 2018, 62 landowners along the Mississippi River filed a lawsuit against the United States in the United States Court of Federal Claims. The plaintiffs claimed that the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) committed an illegal taking by making improvements for navigability on the Middle Mississippi River which caused recurrent flooding on the plaintiffs’ property. The court of claims dismissed the complaint, finding that it was barred by the six-year statute of limitations governing actions under the Tucker Act. See 28 U.S.C. § 2501, 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1).
On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed. A claim accrues when the alleged event causing the damage occurs and the plaintiff is aware, or should be aware, of the event. Under the stabilization doctrine, when a taking happens gradually, the claim does not accrue until the plaintiff is injured. The court found that 91 percent of the river improvements were in place by 2000, well outside of the six-year statute of limitations. The area had experienced recurrent flooding since the nineteenth century and there was no evidence any Corps action within the statutory six-year period exacerbated the flooding. Additionally, the court found that the plaintiffs should have known about the defendant’s potential liability because there was easily accessible public information dating back to the 1970s on the impact of river training structures.
Jackson-Greenly Farm, Inc. v. United States, 2021 WL 1546034 (Fed. Cir. April 20, 2021).