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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Kansas City Life Ins. Co., 339 U.S. 799 (1950)

United States v. Kansas City Life Ins. Co.

No. 1

Argued October 20, 1948

Reargued March 29, 1950

Decided June 5, 1950

339 U.S. 799


Respondent owned farm land in Missouri on a nonnavigable tributary of a navigable river, the land not being in any sense within the bed of the river. In the interest of navigation, the United States constructed on the river a dam which maintained the river continuously at ordinary high water level. As a result, the agricultural value of part of respondent's land was destroyed by underflowing.


1. The United States was liable for the destruction of the agricultural value of the land above the ordinary high water mark of the river, even though maintenance of the river continuously at that mark was in the interest of navigation. Pp. 339 U. S. 804-808.

(a) The ordinary high water mark is the limit of the bed of the stream, and the navigation servitude does not extend to respondent's land beyond the bed of the navigable river. Pp. 339 U. S. 805-808.

2. The destruction of the agricultural value of the land was a taking of private property for public use within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment of the Federal Constitution, even though there was no actual overflowing of the land. Pp. 339 U. S. 809-811.

3. The findings of the Court of Claims in this case sufficiently describe the interest taken by the United States and for which an award of compensation was made to respondent. Pp. 339 U. S. 811-812.

109 Ct.Cl. 555, 74 F.Supp. 653, affirmed.

The Court of Claims made an award of compensation to respondent on a claim against the United States for a taking of property of the respondent for public use. 109 Ct.Cl. 555, 74 F.Supp. 653. This Court granted certiorari. 334 U.S. 810. Affirmed, p. 339 U. S. 812.

Page 339 U. S. 800

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