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Briggs v. City of Palmer

Supreme Court of Alaska

September 12, 2014

RAY T. BRIGGS, Appellant,
v.
CITY OF PALMER, ALASKA, a municipal corporation, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Vanessa White, Judge. Superior Court No. 3PA-07-01480 CI.

Ray T. Briggs, Pro se, Palmer, Appellant.

Michael R. Gatti and Mary B. Pinkel, Wohlforth, Brecht, Cartledge, & Brooking, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, and Bolger, Justices. [Maassen, Justice, not participating.].

OPINION

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

The owner of two lots and a residence near the Palmer Municipal Airport brought an inverse condemnation claim against the City of Palmer, arguing that the airport operation diminished his property value. The superior court entered summary judgment for the City of Palmer because the property owner failed to submit any expert testimony regarding damages. We reverse the superior court's decision because Alaska law permits

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property owners to testify about their opinion of the property's value before and after an alleged taking.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Ray Briggs purchased two parcels of land from the Small Business Administration in 1989. Those parcels share a boundary with the Palmer Airport. In 1997 Briggs complained to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, alleging that Palmer had committed an unconstitutional taking of his property. Palmer subsequently annexed Briggs's property into its corporate boundaries. In 2006 Briggs asked Palmer to buy his property, again alleging that Palmer had committed a taking.

In June 2007 Briggs filed a superior court complaint claiming inverse condemnation. He alleged that the noise from the Palmer Airport substantially interfered with the use and enjoyment of his property to such a degree that it rendered his property uninhabitable and entitled him to just compensation. Briggs alleged that the noise and pollution created by planes landing or taking off from the Palmer Airport substantially diminished his property value.

Palmer filed pretrial motions to exclude various types of evidence. In response to these motions, Briggs's attorney stated that he would not be calling any expert witnesses to testify to the value of Briggs's property. He asserted that Alaska law allows property owners to testify as to their opinion of the value of their property.

In December 2011 the superior court heard oral argument on the pending motions. The court accepted Briggs's late-filed witness list, which consisted of Briggs and his partner, Gilbert Shea. The court granted Palmer's motion to exclude evidence of the Borough's property tax assessment for Brigg's property. In making this decision, the court expressed concern that Briggs might not be able to ...


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