United States v. Dow,
357 U.S. 17 (1958)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Dow, 357 U.S. 17 (1958)

United States v. Dow

No. 102

Argued March 5, 1958

Decided June 9, 1958

357 U.S. 17


In condemnation proceedings, the Government obtained a judgment of "immediate possession" of a pipeline right of way across a tract of land, and it entered into physical possession in 1943 and laid the pipeline through the tract. In 1945, the owners conveyed the tract of land to respondent by a deed which was construed by the trial court as intended to convey "all their right, title and interest" in the tract "or in the award to be made for the same." In 1946, the Government, acting under the Declaration of Taking Act, filed a declaration covering the pipeline right of way, deposited compensation in court, and obtained a judgment on the declaration of taking.

Held: the "taking" occurred in 1943, when the Government entered into physical possession of the land; the assignment of the claim for compensation was invalid under the Assignment of Claims Act; and the respondent was not entitled to receive the compensation award. Pp. 357 U. S. 18-27.

(a) In view of the trial court's express finding that the grantors intended to convey their right to the compensation award, the transfer of the claim was a voluntary assignment, rather than an assignment taking effect by operation of law, and, therefore, it was prohibited by the Assignment of Claims Act. P. 357 U. S. 20.

(b) Since compensation is due at the time of taking, the owner at that time, not the owner at an earlier or later date, is entitled to receive the compensation award. Pp. 357 U. S. 20-21.

(c) When the Government enters into possession of property prior to the acquisition of title, it is the former event which constitutes the act of taking and gives rise to the claim for compensation. Pp. 357 U. S. 21-22.

(d) A different result is not required by the fact that, after the conveyance, the Government filed a declaration of taking and obtained title under the Declaration of Taking Act. Pp. 357 U. S. 22-26.

(e) In cases like this, the total compensation should not be divided between the first and second owners of the property, the former taking that portion of the award attributable to the Government's use of the property until the passage of title and the latter receiving the balance. Pp. 357 U. S. 26-27.

Page 357 U. S. 18

(f) Equitable considerations do not require that respondent receive part or all of the compensation award in the circumstances of this case. P. 357 U. S. 27.

238 F.2d 898 reversed.

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