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Laguna Hermosa Corporation v. United States

February 6, 2012

LAGUNA HERMOSA CORPORATION, (DOING BUSINESS AS RANCHO MONTICELLO RESORT) PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims in case no. 10-CV-281, Judge Lynn J. Bush.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Clevenger, Circuit Judge.

MORENO, Assistant Attorney General.

Before PROST, CLEVENGER, and REYNA, Circuit Judges.

Laguna Hermosa, a concessionaire at the Lake Berry-essa recreation area, appeals from the final decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims dismissing its complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Rules of the Court of Federal Claims. Because we find no error in the trial court's decision, we affirm.

I

The Lake Berryessa recreation area was created in 1957 when the Bureau of Reclamation of the United States Department of the Interior ("the Bureau") built Monticello Dam on Putah Creek in northern California. The United States owns the recreation area. In 1958, the United States entered into a management agreement with Napa County, California, under which the county would administer Lake Berryessa for recreational use. Napa County, in turn, entered into contracts with seven concessionaires to develop and operate recreational facilities. As one of the seven, Laguna Hermosa entered into a concessionaire agreement with Napa County for the construction and operation of a recreational facility at Lake Berryessa. In 1975, the Bureau took over the management of recreation at the lake, including administration of concessionaire agreements. The concessionaire agreement with Laguna Hermosa was extended and modified a number of times. During the term of the agreement, Laguna Hermosa made various improvements to the land, including reconfiguration of the topology to accommodate a resort, boat launch ramps, drainage structures, access roads, a sewage system, retaining walls, a water purification plant, and parking lots.

One year before the concessionaire agreement was set to expire, Laguna Hermosa and three other Lake Berry-essa concessionaires brought suit in the Court of Federal Claims pursuant to the bid protest provisions of the Tucker Act (28 U.S.C. § 1491(b)(1)-(4)) and challenged the Bureau's plan for soliciting new concessionaire bids. The four concessionaires argued that the Bureau had to require new concessionaires to provide compensation for all facilities built on the lakefront. Frazier v. United States, 79 Fed. Cl. 148 (2007), aff'd, 301 F. App'x 974 (Fed. Cir. 2008). The Court of Federal Claims held that Public Law 96-375, 94 Stat. 1505, 1507 (1980), obliged the outgoing concessionaires to either remove or abandon the facilities, unless the United States required that particular facilities remain, in which case concessionaires would receive compensation only for those selected facilities. Frazier, 79 Fed. Cl. at 161. This court affirmed the grant of judgment on the administrative record without opinion. Frazier v. United States, 301 F. App'x 974 (Fed. Cir. 2008).

Laguna Hermosa's concessionaire agreement expired on June 15, 2008. Upon expiration of the concessionaire agreement, Laguna Hermosa did not scrap or otherwise remove the facilities, but instead left them behind intact. The concessionaire insists that it did not intend to abandon the facilities and that it communicated this intent to the Bureau on several occasions. However, Laguna Hermosa does not allege that the United States commanded or otherwise influenced its decision to leave the facilities behind.

Two years after Laguna Hermosa's concessionaire agreement expired, the Bureau entered into a new concessionaire agreement, covering the area that Laguna Hermosa once operated, with Pensus Lake Berryessa Properties ("Pensus"). Laguna Hermosa alleges that since its concessionaire agreement expired, the United States, Pensus, or both have used some of the facilities left behind on the property. Neither the United States nor Pensus have offered to pay Laguna Hermosa for any of the facilities currently affixed to the site.

On May 10, 2010, Laguna Hermosa filed a complaint against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims. On August 30, 2010, Laguna Hermosa filed an amended complaint and asserted two causes of action. First, Laguna Hermosa asserted an inverse condemnation claim under the Fifth Amendment's taking clause. Laguna Hermosa is not appealing the court's dismissal of that cause of action, so we will not address it further. Second, Laguna Hermosa sought compensation from the United States for the facilities which were allegedly retained and used by the Bureau or by Pensus on the theory that the United States should be found to have retrospectively "required" their retention under section 5(b) of Public Law 96-375, and is therefore obligated to pay Laguna Hermosa their fair value.

On September 16, 2010, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under RCFC 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. On January 28, 2011, the Court of Federal Claims granted the motion and ordered that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice. The trial court dismissed Laguna Hermosa's claims for two reasons: (1) issue preclusion foreclosed Laguna Hermosa's claims, and (2) in any event, Frazier's statutory analysis foreclosed the viability of those claims because Laguna Hermosa had no cognizable property interest in the facilities after expiration of the lease and thus no right to fair value compensation under Public Law 96-375. The court entered judgment against Laguna Hermosa on January 31, 2011, and Laguna Hermosa filed a timely notice of appeal on March 8, 2011. As an appeal from a final judgment of the Court of Federal Claims, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(3).

II

This court reviews the trial court's application of the doctrine of issue preclusion de novo. Shell Petroleum v. United States, 319 F.3d 1334, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2003). This court also reviews de novo a dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Court of Federal Claims, just as it does dismissals under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Cary v. United States, 552 F.3d 1373, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2009). A complaint must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) when the facts asserted do not give rise to a legal remedy, Lindsay v. United States, 295 F.3d 1252, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2002), or do not elevate a claim for relief to the realm of plausibility. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 565-71 ...


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