from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable Margot F.
Reagan, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 71D04-1409-PL-270
Attorney for Appellant Philip D. Sever Sever-Storey, L.L.P.
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Andrea E. Rahman David L. Steiner Deputy Attorneys
General Indianapolis, Indiana
In this inverse condemnation case, we consider whether the
trial court erred in concluding that the landowner did not
have a property interest in the free flow of traffic from a
particular road. Concluding that it did not err in reaching
that conclusion, we affirm.
and Procedural Posture
U.S. Highway 31 ("U.S. 31") runs the length of
Indiana, passing by or through the cities of Indianapolis in
Marion County, Plymouth in Marshall County, and South Bend in
St. Joseph County. As part of a larger effort to improve
transportation between Marion County and St. Joseph County,
in March 2002, the Federal Highway Administration
("FHWA") and the Indiana Department of
Transportation ("DOT") began the process of public
involvement in connection with a proposed improvement to U.S.
31 between Plymouth and South Bend ("the Project").
On March 1, 2004, two years after DOT's public
involvement with the Project began, AAA Federal Credit Union
("AAA"), a small regional bank with branches in and
around St. Joseph County, took title by deed to a
three-quarter acre plot of land in a mixed residential and
commercial area on the south side of South Bend ("the
Property"). In early 2006, AAA finished construction
of a branch building on the Property and has operated the
branch on the Property since. The Project was completed
Before the Project was completed, the Property lay at the
northeast corner of the intersection of U.S. 31, running
north-south, and Dice Street, running east-west. The Property
had direct access by a western driveway to U.S. 31 and by a
southern driveway to Dice Street. At that time, U.S. 31 was
an undivided, open-access road on the same grade as the
surrounding roads. However, one of the Project's goals
was to improve traffic flow on U.S. 31 by converting it to a
divided, grade-separated, limited- or controlled-access road.
The Project moved U.S. 31 to the west by a few dozen feet. It
is now a divided highway divided by a grass median, bounded
by a wall to the east of the northbound lanes. Access to and
from U.S. 31 is now possible only by grade-separated
interchanges to the north and south of the Property. The
Project left the Property entirely untouched. It continues to
enjoy access to Dice Street by the southern driveway.
However, the western driveway now accesses Hildebrand Street,
a two-lane north-south frontage road running parallel to U.S.
31, separated from it by the eastern wall. To access the
Property from U.S. 31 or vice versa now requires taking more
or less circuitous routes to the north or south.
On September 17, 2014, AAA brought the instant action for
inverse condemnation against DOT. After a two-day bench trial
on May 24 and 25, 2016, the trial court entered findings of
fact, conclusions of law, and judgment for DOT. AAA now
appeals, claiming the trial court erred in concluding that no
compensable taking had occurred as a matter of law.
Where, as here, a trial court has entered findings and
conclusions prior to judgment, we review the judgment in two
steps. Canteen Serv. Co. of Indianapolis,Inc.
v. Ind. Dep't of Transp., 932 N.E.2d 749, 571
(Ind.Ct.App. 2010). We first determine whether the evidence
supported the findings, then whether the findings supported
the conclusions. Id. We will set aside the judgment
only if clearly erroneous, leaving us with a firm conviction
that a mistake has been made. Id. A judgment that
applies the wrong legal standard to properly found facts is
clearly erroneous. Id. ...