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No Absolute Rule For How To Calculate ‘Just Compensation’


In Backus v. Fort Street Union Depot Co., the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a lower court’s decision that reduced a manufacturing plant owner’s compensation when the street in front of the plant was condemned for use by a railroad. The Court rules that the measure of damages was fairly set by a jury that was instructed to award “full and adequate compensation, not excessive or exorbitant, but just compensation.” The Court refuses to set an absolute formula for calculating “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment: “All that is essential is that in some appropriate way, before some properly constituted tribunal, inquiry shall be made as to the amount of compensation, and when this has been provided there is that due process of law which is required by the Federal Constitution.”