The Ripeness Mess Revisited — Damned If You Do, and Damned If you Don’t

We offer the following quotation from the opinion of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, in Petro-Hunt LLC v. United States, 90 Fed.Cl. 51, 52-53 (2009), per Allegra J.

It aptly describes the conundrum faced by property owners seeking to recover just compensation for the taking of their property:

Scylla and Charybdis were the treacherous sea monsters of Greek mythology, who lurked on the opposing sides of the Straits of Messina between Sicily and Calabria. According to lore, these nightmarish creatures were strategically placed so as to pose an inescapable threat to passing ships — sail too close to the peninsula and Scylla would seize and devour your crew with her six serpentine heads; compensate, by navigating closer to  the island of Sicily, and face the loss of your entire ship in the maelstroms belched from Charybdis’ gaping mouth. On the advice of Circe, Odysseus chose to sail closer to Scylla — costing him six of his men, but leaving his ship intact to sail another day.

Some might say that, in Federal takings law, these fictional leviathans have been replaced by the doctrines of ripeness and limitations, both of which must successfully be navigated by claimants seeking to bring their cases before  this court. File too early and risk having your case dismissed as premature; delay too long, however, and face the loss of your entire suit, as time-barred. See Bayou Des Familles Dev. Corp. v. United States, 130 F.3d 1034, 1037-38 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In some situations, litigants may find themselves between a rock and a hard place (a veiled reference, as it turns out, to the twin monsters of old).

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