SACRAMENTO — A landowner who sued for Fifth Amendment violations by the Department of Transportation, which allegedly occupied a strip of land without compensation, has suffered a loss in court.
State Judge Harry Hull Jr., on the bench of the California Third District Court of Appeal, issued a 21-page ruling on Jan.11 affirming the California Superior Court's decision in a lawsuit filed by Loren Prout against the California Department of Transportation.
The court affirmed the previous decision that considered that Caltrans accepted "the offer of dedication by physically occupying the strip" for highway improvements, forcing Prout to execute a deed, allowing the department to use the land.
Prout sued Caltrans alleging that she never signed a deed to the department, giving a strip of land in Calaveras County to rehabilitate and improve State Highway 12.
As stated in the ruling, "In 1977, Prout—a licensed real estate broker and land developer—acquired a 165-acre parcel of land on the north side" of the highway.
In December 1989, an agent of Prout "submitted to Caltrans an application for an encroachment permit allowing connections of the private roads to Highway 12," with the department issuing the permit in 1990.
A new subdivision was added in June 1992, with most of the area not facing Highway 12. Prout signed the map of the project, as did on the first phase, but denied transferring the land.
"Prout never transferred by deed the 1.31-acre strip of land. He admitted at trial that he has not been assessed or paid property taxes on that strip since the subdivision maps were recorded, and no assessor parcel number has been assigned to that strip of land," the court document said.
Caltrans started preparing for highway improvements in 2007, and it informed Prout that an appraisal would be made to determine the amount to be paid "for the 1.31-acre strip of land needed to accomplish the highway improvements."
He never signed a deed, and the strip was physically occupied in 2010.
In his ruling, Judge Hull stated that "Prout fails to show grounds to reverse the judgment," considering the lower court decision valid and free of constitutional violation.
California 3rd District Court of Appeal Case number C076812