A. Gallo and Company v. Commissioner of Environmental Protection
To state a claim under the takings clause, a plaintiff first must establish that he or she possesses a constitutionally protected interest in the disputed property. The plaintiffs, originally, 12 beer and soft drink distributors doing business in Connecticut, brought this action against the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, seeking a declaratory judgment and damages and alleging a retroactive taking of their property under certain provisions in Public Acts 2009, No. 09-1, §15, in violation of their state and federal constitutional rights. The dispute concerned unclaimed beverage container deposits. P.A. 09-1, §15 codified at C.G.S. §22a-245a(d), signed into law on Jan. 15, 2009, provided that all unclaimed deposits accruing for four months prior to its effective date of April 1, 2009, must be paid to the state rather than retained by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs did not challenge the state's right to the unclaimed deposits from the effective date onward, only the four month retroactive period. The trial court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, awarding damages and attorneys' fees. The commissioner appealed claiming that the legislation did not effect an unconstitutional taking because the plaintiffs had no vested property interest in the unclaimed deposits. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment, concluding that the trial court improperly determined that the 2009 act resulted in an unconstitutional taking. The plaintiffs failed to prove clear entitlement to the unclaimed deposits for the four month period from Dec. 1, 2008 to April 1, 2009. The plaintiffs conceded that the regulatory scheme contained no provision expressly granting the distributors a property interest in the unclaimed deposits. The plaintiffs demonstrated no clear incidents of property ownership following a 2008 act, which placed strict controls over the management and disposition of the funds. The 2008 act required the funds deposited in special accounts beginning on Dec. 1, 2008 and allowed the distributors to withdraw funds for certain enumerated purposes, not including retention of the unclaimed deposits. Because their right to use and control the deposits was severely limited following passage of the 2008 act, the plaintiffs had no vested property interest in the contested unclaimed deposits. Consequently, the 2009 act's provision requiring all unclaimed deposits accruing during the four-month period to be paid to the state did not effect an unconstitutional taking of property.