Lawsuit by Colorado Man Demands Feds Pay for Damaging His Property
Jan 18, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley
Tired of the refusal of a federal agency to repair massive damage it did to his property and to prevent future harm, a Boulder County man today filed a lawsuit against the federal government in Colorado federal district court.
When Michael Whited repeatedly warned the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its officials that an aging stone and concrete shed on its property could collapse and damage his house back in 2011, they gave him the bureaucratic runaround. Mr. Whited is a longtime resident of rural Fourmile Canyon whose property borders land managed by the BLM. Several years and many requests later, the BLM neither removed nor stabilized its shed, and as Mr. Whited, a mechanical engineer, anticipated, in March 2016, the BLM’s shed collapsed. Concrete and boulders cascaded onto the narrow walkway next to his house. Unstable trees collapsed into his home and were driven into the electrical panel, risking an electrical fire. Even after all this damage, the BLM still refused to clean up its mess, leaving Mr. Whited to fend for himself by spending his own time and money in a futile attempt to restore his land.
“Mr. Whited’s situation demonstrates why westerners call the federal government the world’s worst neighbor,” said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represents Mr. Whited. “Were the circumstance reversed, U.S. Marshals would have appeared at Mr. Whited’s door to haul him off to the courthouse to face charges.”
In 2017, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, Mr. Whited, with Mountain States Legal Foundation’s assistance, filed an administrative claim with the BLM. In the summer of 2017, the BLM denied the claim, asserting that it “has no ownership of the [shed] on public land” but that Mr. Whited has permission to “remove any of the structure that is on [his] property as well as any of the structure where encroachment onto [his] property is imminent.” The agency warned Mr. Whited, however, that he could not construct a retaining wall on or enter upon BLM-managed land without paying the agency for a right-of-way. The shed is built directly into the hillside, which is located entirely on the BLM’s land and must be stabilized to prevent further damage to Mr. Whited’s property.
Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.
For more information: WHITED v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Corrections & Amplifications
An earlier version of this release incorrectly stated that the trees falling into Mr. Whited’s home sent off sparks. Additionally, the administrative claim under the FTCA was originally filed in 2017. (Jan. 23, 2018)
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