Inverse condemnation is a complex law that arises out of the “takings” clause set forth in both federal and state constitutions. The “takings” legal doctrine prohibits private property from being taken for public use by a government without just compensation to the owner.

Most insurance companies will not cover any damages due to issues that originate outside of the home. However, the inverse condemnation laws in some cases will allow a homeowner to pursue charges against a government entity responsible for their damages.

5th Amendment to the United States Constitution

The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a government entity from “taking” or destroying a person’s private property without providing just compensation. This law extends to state and local municipalities through state constitutions as well. When a government entity fails to meet its obligations to ensure the safety of its own equipment, and a private citizen’s property suffers damage, the property owner may file a claim for just compensation.

California Supreme Court

While there are many examples of where a federal, state, or local government entity could encroach on the property rights of a private citizen, in 2019, the California Supreme Court determined that instead of looking to a reasonable analysis regarding inverse condemnation, the focus should be on the substantial cause of the loss for the property owner.

In the case before the court, the sewer lines of the city backed up and caused substantial damage to the property owner. While the property owner did not have the required backwater valve pumping fixture required by law, the California Supreme Court still ruled that the city could not be held responsible for the damage to the person’s property. The reasoning was that every government entity does not have unlimited funds and resources to be always held automatically liable in every inverse condemnation case.

Insurance Coverage

If your insurance policy does not cover instances where a government entity caused damage to your property, as a homeowner, you may have to pay for damages out of pocket. However, this law is ever-changing, and the State of California expects that more appellate decisions are to come regarding inverse condemnation based on this recent 2019 court decision. In the meantime, you should immediately check your insurance policy to see if your insurance carrier offers additional coverage for these types of events and is possible, obtain it.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If a federal, state, or local government entity caused damage to your property and you are unsure if you are allowed to legally file a claim against them, or need someone to negotiate on your behalf with your insurance company regarding your property damage, contact the experienced attorneys at McLachlan Law at 310-853-6760 or online today for your free consultation. We can help you determine who should provide compensation for your damages, help you obtain the compensation you deserve, and ensure your legal rights are protected.