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McIlroy v. United States of America

Legal Question:

Whether a government agency may continue to trespass upon, and cause damage to, privately owned land adjoining Forest Service land without compensating the property owner or responding to repeated requests to cease activities on private property?

Plaintiffs:

Matthew L. McIlroy and William L. McIlroy

Defendant:

United States of America

Court:

U.S. District Court for the District of Arkansas - Western Division
None

Matthew L. McIlroy and his father William L. McIlroy own a farm near Van Buren in the Ozark Mountains that was settled in 1808 and that is made up of three parcels in Franklin County, Arkansas northeast of Fort Smith.  The farm is abutted by the Ozark National Forest, which was proclaimed in 1908 and in which a Job Corps camp is located near Cass.

In the late 1960s, the family complained that Job Corps students were trespassing on and littering its property, damaging its fences, and destroying its hay.  In 1971, the family discovered the Forest Service had drilled a well on its property.  Forest Service officials claimed that the well, used as a water source for Job Corps facilities, was on federal land.  For years, a series of top officials repeated that statement, despite the family’s protestations.

In 1973, the Job Corps tore down a 100-year old levee built upstream of the farm at the confluence of Mulberry River and Fane’s Creek to protect the farm and the site of the Job Corps facility, which caused flooding and erosion downstream, alteration of the river bed due to silting and deposits of eroded rock, and destruction of 10 acres of the farm.  Further illegal actions worsened the problem by widening a water channel across the farm.

In 1998, the family discovered part of its fence had been flattened, a sewage effluent line installed over it and across 50-60 yards of the farm, and Job Corps sewage effluent discharged from the line into Mulberry River.  Then the Forest Service installed a “temporary” water line across the McIlroys’ property and blocked entry to the farm, used heavy equipment to blade dirt and drag drainage ditches, built a service road across the farm, poured concrete on the road, caused serious erosion, destroyed fences, and loosed family livestock.

On August 30, 2013, Mr. McIlroy filed a nearly five million dollar administrative claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which allows lawsuits against federal agencies for the tortious acts of their employees after the claim has been filed and rejected and/or ignored for six months.  The United States did not respond. On July 28, 2014, the McIlroy family filed its (FTCA) lawsuit against the United States of America.  On October 20, 2014, the United States filed an answer.  From January 15, 2015, through June 15, 2015, the parties conducted discovery.  On July 30, 2015, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. On August 27, 2015, the parties filed their response briefs.  On September 4, 2015, Mr. McIlroy's reply brief was filed.  On October 28, 2015, the parties filed a stipulation of settlement, wherein the United States agreed to pay the McIlroys all damages requested in the McIlroys’ motion for summary judgment, remove certain structures from the McIlroys’ land, and cease use of the McIlroys’ properties.  On May 1, 2016, removal of the structures from the McIlroys' property was completed.

  • Arkansas Family Settles Tort Action Against U.S. Forest Service

    Oct 28, 2015
    An Arkansas family, forebearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today settled the family’s lawsuit with the United States before an Arkansas federal district court in a tort action that named the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Arkansas Family Replies to Fed’s Denial of Liability for Tortious Acts

    Sep 3, 2015
    An Arkansas family, forebearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today replied to assertions of fact and arguments made by the United States, and urged that an Arkansas federal district court reject those purported facts and futile arguments and rule in its favor in the family’s nearly five million dollar tort lawsuit against the United States.
  • Arkansas Family Responds to Fed’s Claim of Adverse Possession

    Aug 27, 2015
    An Arkansas family, the forbearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today urged an Arkansas federal district court to reject the federal government’s argument that, by trespassing on the family’s farm, the United States owns the land and to rule for the family in its nearly five million dollar tort lawsuit against the United States.
  • Arkansas Family: Feds Responsible for Tortious Acts on Farm

    Jul 30, 2015
    An Arkansas family, the forebearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today urged an Arkansas federal district court to hold the federal government liable in the family’s nearly five million dollar tort lawsuit against the United States.
  • Arkansas Shocker: Feds Claim Ownership in Tortious Trespass Case

    Jul 30, 2015
    An Arkansas family, the forebearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today responded to a claim by federal lawyers that the government adversely possessed the family’s land as its defense against a five million dollar tort lawsuit naming the United States in Arkansas federal district court.
  • Arkansas Family Files Multi-Million Dollar Tort Claim Against the USA

    Jul 28, 2014
    An Arkansas family, the forebearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today filed a nearly five million dollar tort lawsuit against the United States in Arkansas federal district court.
  • Arkansas Family Hands Forest Service Multi-Million Dollar Tort Claim

    Aug 30, 2013
    An Arkansas family, the forebearers of which settled in the Ozark Mountains in 1808, today formally advised the U.S. Forest Service of a nearly five million dollar claim against the agency.


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