State ex rel. Morrison v. Thelberg

In State ex rel. Morrison v. Thelberg, 87 Ariz. 318, 325, 350 P.2d 988, 992 (1960) the defendant property owners had direct access to both directions of travel on an abutting highway from their property. Id. at 321, 350 P.2d at 989. After the State constructed a new controlled-access highway, the property owners no longer had direct access to the highway and could only reach it by traveling approximately 1500 feet on a frontage road. Id. at 322, 350 P.2d at 990. To construct the frontage road, the State condemned a small portion of the owners' property. Id. The defendants claimed, inter alia, they were entitled to damages for the loss of direct access to the new controlled-access highway. Id. at 322-23, 350 P.2d at 990. In holding that the property owners were entitled to seek damages, the court rejected Forsstrom's presumption of payment rationale and concluded that "either the destruction or the material impairment of the access easement of an abutting property owner to such highway is compensable." Id. at 323-24, 350 P.2d at 991. The court reasoned that "an abutting property owner to a highway has an easement of ingress and egress to and from his property which constitutes a property right." Id. at 324, 350 P.2d at 991. Based on that right, and the Arizona Constitution, the court found "that the State can neither take nor damage said easement of ingress or egress of an abutting property owner without just compensation." Id. In determining that damages were appropriate, the court emphasized that by converting the roadway to a controlled-access highway, the State had negatively impacted the owners' ingress and egress to a preexisting roadway. Id. at 325, 350 P.2d at 992. With respect to the amount of damages the property owners might be entitled to, the court pointed out that "other means of access such as frontage roads . . . may be taken into consideration in determining the amount which would be just under the circumstances. Other means of access may mitigate damages, but does not constitute a defense to the action." Id. at 325, 350 P.2d at 992.