John R. Sand & Gravel Co. v. United States

John R. Sand and Gravel Company (JRS&G) sued the United States for taking JRS&G’s leasehold interest in a 158-acre tract of land in Michigan. JRS&G had leased the property, which was adjacent to a landfill, for the purpose of mining sand and gravel. The Environmental Protection Agency fenced off a portion of the leased property in 1992 after discovering toxic contaminants at the neighboring landfill; it proceeded to add to the fence in subsequent years, eventually cutting off access to portions of the mining operation. JRS&G and the EPA disputed the borders of the fence in various administrative and court actions until the fence was eventually realigned in 1998. JRS&G filed its takings claim in 2002.

The statute of limitations in the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. §2501, which governs takings claims filed in the Court of Federal Claims, provides that a suit against the government is time-barred after six-years. The government moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction because JRS&G had filed its law suit more than six-years after the action had accrued. The Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of the governemnt, finding that the suit was not time-barred but that JRS&G had failed to prove a taking. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed, finding that the suit was time barred. The Federal Circuit first held that the statute of limitations in the Tucker Act was jurisdictional, which means that the court lacks jurisdiction over (cannot decide) cases that are filed beyond the time limitation. It then held that JRS&G's takings claim accrued in accrued no later than February of 1994 when the government constructed the fence that cut off JRS&G’s access to its stockpile and pond areas. That date was more than six years before JRS&G filed its complaint on May 20, 2002, and accordingly, JRS&G's takings claim was time barred.

Questions Presented:

The statute of limitations in the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. §2501, provides: “Every claim of which the United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction shall be barred unless the petition thereon is filed within six years after such claim first accrues.”
The questions presented are:

1. Whether the statute of limitations in the Tucker Act limits the subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims.

2. Whether a claim for a permanent physical taking of a portion of real property first accrues upon the government’s temporary exclusion of the property holder from another portion of the property.

Decision under Review

Supreme Court Opinion