Dan King
Dan King · June 28, 2024

WASHINGTON—Today, an innocent woman whose McKinney, Texas, home was destroyed by a SWAT team in 2020 asked the United States Supreme Court to hear her case seeking compensation for the damage. Vicki Baker, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), is petitioning the High Court after an appeals court panel overturned a lower court’s ruling that held she was entitled to nearly $60,000 for the destruction police caused while pursuing a fugitive. 

“Getting dangerous criminals off the streets is a legitimate government function, but when police destroy innocent people’s property in the process, the government must pay just compensation,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeffrey Redfern. “The Supreme Court has a chance to make it clear that the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause applies to police powers, just like it does to any other government action that destroys innocent people’s property.” 

In July 2020, a fugitive barricaded himself inside a house with a “for sale” sign out front. That house happened to belong to Vicki, who was not home and was under contract to sell it. After a prolonged standoff, the McKinney SWAT team stormed the house, launching tear-gas grenades, knocking down doors, running over the fence with an armored vehicle, and blinding Vicki’s dog in the process. The raid caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage and led the potential buyer to back out of the deal.  

“On top of the obvious destruction that occurred, I lost so many family heirlooms, classic books, and clothing that were damaged by the tear gas,” said Vicki. “It was devastating to be told there was no way to receive compensation for all the destruction I came home to. I’m asking the Supreme Court to hear this case, so nobody else has to go through what I went through.” 

Like many insurance plans, Vicki’s did not cover “acts of the government,” and when she approached the city about being compensated, they refused. So, in March 2021, Vicki and IJ filed a federal lawsuit seeking payment. In April 2022, the district court ruled that the city was “liable for a taking” under both the United States and Texas Constitutions, and two months later a federal jury ruled Vicki was entitled to nearly $60,000 in damages.  

However, the city appealed that decision, and in October 2023, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling that McKinney’s actions were a “compensable taking under the Fifth Amendment.” Vicki and IJ then asked the full 5th Circuit to rehear the case but were narrowly denied, with 11 judges voting against rehearing and 6 voting in favor of it. 

“The fact that so many judges were prepared to rehear this case shows there is some dissent from the idea that cities are immune from paying just compensation when police destroy innocent people’s property,” said IJ Attorney Suranjan Sen. “We frequently hear stories similar to Vicki’s, which is why it is so important for the Supreme Court to hear this case now. If the government breaks it, the government should pay for it.”  

Similar to Vicki, IJ is representing a business owner in Los Angeles and a mother in South Bend, Indiana, as they both seek compensation for destruction caused by SWAT teams. IJ also won a major victory at the Supreme Court this year, holding that a Texas rancher could sue the state after his land was flooded when the state erected a barrier along a nearby highway.