No right to jury trial in regulatory takings case

A Massachusetts court held that a landowner was not entitled to have a jury determine whether a wetlands protection bylaw constituted a regulatory taking. Smyth v. Conservation Comm'n of Falmouth, 119 N.E.3d 1188 (Mass App. Ct. 2019).


The owner who inherited an unimproved lot from her parents (who paid $49,000 for it in 1975) was denied a building permit since her plans violated the town wetlands protection bylaw. The owner presented evidence at trial that the lot had a fair market value of $700,000 if buildable but only $60,000 if not buildable. The jury found that a regulatory taking had occurred and awarded $640,000 in damages. The Appeals Court reversed, holding that the state constitution did not guarantee a jury right for this type of claim and that the regulatory takings question was a matter of law to be decided by the judge.


The court found no regulatory taking since the land retained market value (that was higher than the purchase price), other uses were possible and owner have no inherent right to build a house on land in the face of a regulatory law designed to protect the public and she inherited the property and so had no investment-backed expectations.

See also: Takings