City of Austin v. Travis County Landfill Co

In City of Austin v. Travis County Landfill Co., 73 S.W.3d 234 (Tex. 2002) ("TCLC"), the plaintiff owned property, which it intended to operate as a landfill, roughly one-half mile away from the main runway at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. See TCLC, 73 S.W.3d at 237. In 1997, however, the airport begin accepting civilian air traffic, prompting TCLC to sue the City of Austin for an alleged taking-by-overflight under Article I, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution. See id. The jury found a compensable taking and awarded damages, but the Texas Supreme Court granted the City of Austin's petition for review "to decide whether TCLC established that the civilian overflights . . . constituted a taking under the Texas Constitution." Id. at 238. The parties apparently assumed, as they do here, that Texas follows the federal taking-by-overflight standard. See id. at 239. Therefore, the Court analyzed the validity of TCLC's claim under Causby, without specifically addressing whether the Texas Constitution affords the same level of protection from overflight effects. See id. The Court recited the applicable legal standard as follows: "To establish a taking by aircraft overflights, a landowner must show that the flights directly, immediately, and substantially interfere with the land's use and enjoyment. To meet this standard, the landowner must show that the overflight effects directly and immediately impact the land so that the property is no longer usable for its intended purpose." (Id. at 240.)