Waltraud Steele, Jutta Mozingo, and Robert Ingram sued the City of Houston for damages which they say they sustained when officers of the Houston Police Department caused the destruction of their home and belongings while attempting to recapture three escaped convicts who had taken refuge in the house. Mozingo and Ingram were married at the time of the events upon which this action is based. The trial court rendered a summary judgment against the plaintiffs, and the court of civil appeals has affirmed. 577 S.W.2d 373. We reverse the judgments of the courts below and remand the cause for trial.
Plaintiffs alleged their action under the Tort Claims Act, Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 6252-19, as a nuisance, and as a destruction of their property for which they are entitled to compensation under Article I, Section 17,
The City then moved for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiffs had not alleged an action either under the Tort Claims Act or under a nuisance theory. The trial court sustained this motion, and the court of civil appeals affirmed. That court also held that plaintiff had failed to state a nuisance action and that section 14(1) of the Tort Claims Act preserved the City's immunity from liability for an intentional tort.
The attack upon plaintiffs' pleadings by means of a motion for summary judgment operated to deny them an opportunity to amend defects in their pleadings. Plaintiffs would have had a right to amend had the trial court sustained City's exceptions to their pleadings. Harold v. Houston Yacht Club, 380 S.W.2d 184 (Tex.Civ.App. — Houston 1964, no writ); Caperton v. Thorpe, 240 S.W.2d 329 (Tex.Civ.App. — Eastland 1951, no writ); 3 McDonald, Texas Civil Practice § 10.14.4 (1970). Under some situations it has been held error to grant a motion for summary judgment without affording an opportunity to amend. Andrews v. Austin Motor Truck Co., 259 S.W.2d 772 (Tex.Civ. App. — Austin 1953, no writ); 4 McDonald, Texas Civil Practice § 17.26.8 (1971). We do not, however, in reversing the judgments below, place our decision upon the absence of an opportunity to amend because no point is presented which asks us to do so.
It is our opinion that the plaintiffs asserted a cause of action against City of Houston whether the challenge to the pleadings is by exceptions or motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs, by carrying forward their pleadings into the allegations of their affidavit controverting the motion for summary judgment, stated that their property was destroyed and that they are entitled to adequate compensation under Article I, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution. That section provides:
The taking, the damaging, or the destruction of property are often treated, more or less, as synonyms, but the terms are different and have different historical origins. The underlying basis for compensating one whose property is taken or damaged or destroyed for public use may, however, be the same, for the prohibition against uncompensated takings "was designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole." Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S. 40, 49, 80 S.Ct. 1563, 1569, 4 L.Ed.2d 1554 (1960); Y. M. C. A. v. United States, 395 U.S. 85, 89, 89 S.Ct. 1511, 23 L.Ed.2d 117 (1969). But the terms have a scope of operation that is different.
Property that is taken is transferred from one owner to another. Recent decisions by this court have broadly applied the underlying rationale to takings by refusing to differentiate between an exercise of police power, which excused compensation, and eminent domain, which required compensation. That dichotomy, we have held, has not proved helpful in determining when private citizens affected by governmental actions must be compensated. City of Austin v. Teague, 570 S.W.2d 389 (Tex.1978); DuPuy v. City of Waco, 396 S.W.2d 103 (Tex.1965); San Antonio River Authority v. Lewis, 363 S.W.2d 444 (Tex.1963); Brazos River Authority v. City of Graham, 163 Tex. 167, 354 S.W.2d 99 (1962). In City of Austin v. Teague, supra at 394, the court, in the course of holding that municipal action impressing a scenic easement upon one's property entitled the landowner to damages under Article I, Section 17, observed that the City had "singled out plaintiffs to bear all the costs for the community benefit without distributing any cost among the members of the community." In Teague, we quoted with approval from San Antonio River Authority v. Garrett Brothers, 528 S.W.2d 266, 274 (Tex.Civ.App. — San Antonio 1975, writ ref'd n. r. e.), which spoke of "the doctrine that the cost of community benefits should be distributed impartially among the members of the community." See also, G., C. & S.F. R'y Co. v. Fuller, 63 Tex. 467, 470 (1885).
Neither the parties nor the courts below have regarded this case as one of eminent domain or inverse condemnation. Neither have we. We cite the cases only to show that this court has moved beyond the earlier notion that the government's duty to pay for taking property rights is excused by labeling the taking as an exercise of police powers.
Uncompensated governmental taking of property was unlawful before Magna Carta. Section 8 of that document restated the rule that goods could not be taken without reasonable compensation. Governmental damaging of property without compensation was more recently proscribed. The Thirteenth Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas provided that "No person's particular service shall be demanded, nor property taken or applied to public use, unless by the consent of himself or his representative, without just compensation being made therefor according to law." Hartley, Digest of the
The government's duty to compensate for damaging property for public use after 1876 was not dependent upon the transfer of property rights. We wrote in G., C. & Santa Fe R.R. Co. v. Eddins, 60 Tex. 656, 663 (1884):
The court in Eddins said that, absent a taking, one could recover damages by proof that it was inflicted with special injury such as will "practically deprive him of the ordinary use and enjoyment of it ...." The expansion of governmental duty and the distinction between property taken and property damaged were again explained in G., C. & S.F. R'y Co. v. Fuller, 63 Tex. 467 (1885). This court said that a damage meant "every loss or diminution of what is a man's own, occasioned by the fault of another ...." The court also wrote:
It is not every damaging, however, that should be compensated. The Constitution limits compensation to damages "for or applied to public use," and judicial restraints have narrowed that phrase to damages which arise out of or as an incident to some kind of public works. City of Amarillo v. Stockton, 158 Tex. 275, 310 S.W.2d 737 (1958); Dallas County Flood Control Dist. v. Benson, 157 Tex. 617, 306 S.W.2d 350 (1957); Texas Highway Dept. v. Weber, 147 Tex. 628, 219 S.W.2d 70 (1949); State v. Hale, 136 Tex. 29, 146 S.W.2d 731 (1941); Sinclair Pipe Line Co. v. Lipscomb, 308 S.W.2d 584 (Tex.Civ.App. — Fort Worth 1957, writ ref'd n. r. e.); Bexar Metropolitan Water Dist. v. Kuntscher, 274 S.W.2d 121 (Tex.Civ.App. — San Antonio 1954, no writ); Gotcher v. State, 106 S.W.2d 1104 (Tex.Civ.App. — Austin 1937, no writ). A more significant restraint, however, was the rule that the damaging must not result from negligence. Texas Highway Dept. v. Weber, supra; Dallas Flood Control Dist. v. Benson, supra; State v. Hale, supra.
Between the restrictions upon liability that denied compensation for negligent and other tortious acts by the government and the very broad liability suggested by the above quotation from State v. Hale lies a middle ground that this court has followed in permitting compensation for damages upon proof of a nuisance. City of Abilene v. Downs, 367 S.W.2d 153 (Tex. 1963); Sherman Gas & Electric Co. v. Belden, 103 Tex. 59, 123 S.W. 119 (1909). We hold in this case, however, that the plaintiffs alleged an action for the destruction of their property.
The government's intentional destruction of property is a subject that this court has infrequently addressed. Keller v. Corpus Christi, 50 Tex. 614 (1879), was an example of a citizen's action against a municipality for the intentional destruction of a dwelling to prevent the spread of a fire. The house, we learn from the opinion, was adjacent to another one that was already on fire and was already subjected to destruction. The court denied Keller's action, but it did so because he did not proceed as a remedial statute required.
Keller dealt with a remedial statute which permitted the destruction of a dwelling to prevent a public calamity. The statute permitted the destruction, but with compensation, when the dwelling was "likely to take fire and communicate to other buildings." A person of some authority and responsibility, however, had to give the order for destruction. The decision to destroy had to be made by the fire chief or the chief engineer with the concurrence of the mayor. Keller v. Corpus Christi, supra at 626. The statute also accorded Keller the right to assert his claim for damages before three commissioners, one chosen by the City, one by Keller, and the third by the other two. The commissioners were then authorized to conduct a hearing with the power to subpoena and swear witnesses and "to take into account the probabilities whether the building would have been destroyed by fire if it had not been so pulled down or destroyed." The court in Keller denied recovery because the plaintiff failed to follow the requirements of an enabling remedial law. We have no similar enabling statute in this case.
It is our opinion that plaintiffs' pleadings and their claim in contesting the motion for summary judgment established a lawful cause of action under Section 17, Article I, of the Texas Constitution. That claim was made under the authority of the Constitution and was not grounded upon proof of either a tort or a nuisance. It was a claim for the destruction of property, and governmental immunity does not shield the City of Houston. The Constitution itself is the authorization for compensation for the destruction of property and is a waiver of governmental immunity for the taking, damaging or destruction of property for public use.
We accordingly reverse the judgments of the courts below. Plaintiffs, upon remand, will be entitled to make proof that the City of Houston, acting through its
The defendant City of Houston may defend its actions by proof of a great public necessity. Mere convenience will not suffice. Uncompensated destruction of property has been occasionally justified by reason of war, riot, pestilence or other great public calamity. Destruction has been permitted in instances in which the building is adjacent to a burning building or in the line of fire and destined to destruction anyway.
Prosser, The Law of Torts § 24 (4th ed. 1971). The scant proof made by the City of Houston in this case does not establish as a matter of law that it is excused from making compensation for the destruction of plaintiffs' dwelling and personal property.
The judgments of the courts below are reversed and the cause is remanded for trial.
GARWOOD, J., not sitting.
Nichols, The Law of Eminent Domain § 1.43 (rev. 3d ed. 1979); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 196 (1965).