YMCA V. UNITED STATES, 395 U. S. 85 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

YMCA v. United States, 395 U.S. 85 (1969)

National Board of Young Men's Christian

Associations v. United States

No. 517

Argued March 3, 1969

Decided May 19, 1969

395 U.S. 85


Petitioners sued the Government in the Court of Claims for just compensation under the Fifth Amendment for riot damage to their two buildings, located in the Atlantic section of the Canal Zone at its boundary with the Republic of Panama, after they were occupied by U.S. Army troops during the January, 1964, riots in Panama. On the evening of January 9, a mob entered the buildings, looting and wrecking the interiors, and starting a fire in one. Army troops were moved to the Atlantic section to clear the Zone of rioters and seal the border. Troops entered three buildings, including petitioners', ejected the rioters, and were deployed outside the structures. After considerable assault, sniper fire, and injuries, the troops were moved inside the buildings after midnight. The buildings were under siege during the night and the next morning, and one was set afire. The troops withdrew, and the buildings were subjected to heavy fire-bomb attack. Other buildings in the area were damaged or destroyed. The Court of Claims granted the Government's motion for summary judgment, holding that the temporary occupancy of the buildings and the damage inflicted by the rioters during such occupancy did not constitute a taking for Army use under the Fifth Amendment.

Held: The Fifth Amendment does not require that petitioners be compensated for damages to their buildings resulting from misconduct by rioters following occupation of the buildings by government troops. Pp. 395 U. S. 89-93.

(a) Where, as here, a private party is the particular intended beneficiary of governmental activity, "fairness and justice" do not require that losses which may result from that activity "be borne by the public as a whole," even though the activity may also be intended to benefit the public. P. 395 U. S. 92.

(b) The physical occupation of the buildings by the troops did not deprive petitioners of any use of the buildings, as the buildings were already under siege by rioters, and thus petitioners could only claim compensation for the increased damage by rioters resulting from the presence of the troops. P. 395 U. S. 93.

Page 395 U. S. 86

(c) Where the only claim is that governmental action is causally related to private misconduct which results in private property damage, the Fifth Amendment does not require compensation unless the governmental involvement in the deprivation of private property is determined to be sufficiently direct and substantial. P. 395 U. S. 93.

(d) The temporary, unplanned occupation of petitioners' buildings in the course of battle does not constitute direct and substantial enough involvement to warrant compensation under the Fifth Amendment. P. 395 U. S. 93.

184 Ct.Cl. 427, 396 F.2d 467, affirmed.

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