Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Devillier v. Texas Case

April 1, 2024
BarronAdler

This past January, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for an ongoing case impacting landowners in Winnie, Texas, outside Houston. In Devillier v. Texas, 77 landowners sued the State, claiming a newly constructed concrete median barrier along I-10 flooded their farms, ranches, and homes and turned their properties into a stormwater detention pond as a result of TxDOT’s modifications to I-10.

The wall was built to keep flooding off the new highway so it could be used as an evacuation route. It was constructed within TxDOT’s right-of-way, so these landowners did not receive any compensation. The landowners assert that the wall has caused the flooding of their properties and, therefore, constitutes a “taking” under the Fifth Amendment. The landowners are seeking compensation for their land being appropriated for state use. 

In response to the landowners’ claims, the State removed the case to federal court and sought to dismiss the claim because there is no federal statutory cause of action for a taking in these circumstances.

Photo of Richie DeVillier courtesy of Institute for Justice

The best case scenario for the landowners is that the U.S. Supreme Court decides private parties can assert or maintain a takings claim against the State in federal court, even when there is no statutory cause of action. If the U.S. Supreme Court sides with the landowners, asserting claims for inverse condemnation will become easier for other property owners in the future.

The case is awaiting a final decision from the Court, which is expected later this term. To learn more about the case history, visit the Supreme Court’s website to view prior proceedings and orders.