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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of E. S. Berney.

September 01, 1954

I HAVE WITHHELD my approval from S. 46, entitled "For the relief of E. S. Berney."

This bill would pay to E. S. Berney the sum of $4,750 as compensation for damages allegedly sustained by him as a result of certain representations made by a representative of the Navy during World War II.

It appears that in the summer of 1943 a representative of the Navy discussed with the beneficiary the potential use of his Nevada ranch and certain adjoining ones as a bombing range. Although the evidence on this point is conflicting, it appears that such representative indicated that he expected the Navy to begin operations that fall and that, prior to the beginning of such operations, all livestock would have to be removed from the land. The beneficiary alleges that on the basis of this information he disposed of his cattle and other property and vacated his ranch early in the fall. It developed, however, that the Navy did not need or begin to use his land until the following spring.

In subsequent condemnation proceedings, the Court refused to recognize any damages occurring prior to the time when the Navy began using the land in question in the spring of 1944. On this premise the Court awarded the beneficiary $766.67 for damages occurring after use by the Navy began. The present bill was designed to afford compensation for damages which were excluded by the Court and which the beneficiary alleges were due to the premature vacation of his land.

Conceding the facts in this case to be as stated by the beneficiary, it still does not follow that he is entitled to the award proposed here. It has not been established that the damages allegedly sustained by the beneficiary were due to a reasonable reliance upon the representations of the Navy representative. There appears to have been no such reliance on the part of other ranch owners whose land was taken under similar circumstances and whose statements appear in the Committee reports in support of some aspects of the ,beneficiary's claim.

In addition, there appears to be confusion as to the basis for measuring the damages which the beneficiary allegedly sustained. He made an unverified claim of damages in the amount of $12,000. Part of the damages so claimed are covered by the $766.67 condemnation award. The Congress reduced the claim to $4,750, with no indication as to how this sum was arrived at.

From the foregoing, it seems to me, that the record in this case is inconclusive both with respect to the merits of the beneficiary's claim and as to the damages which he may have sustained. These uncertainties compel me to withhold my approval from this bill.

I would, however, be willing to approve legislation which would permit adjudication of the case by the appropriate District Court. Such legislation should authorize the payment to the beneficiary of such damages as the Court might determine to be reasonably attributable to his reliance upon the alleged representations made to him by the Navy representative. I believe that only by such means can the rather obscure elements of this case be considered and resolved in a manner fair to both the Government and the beneficiary.


Note: This memorandum was released at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colo.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of E. S. Berney. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231801

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