In eminent domain law, few tasks are more difficult for a jury than calculating the amount of “damages to the remainder.” Often the jury has to deal with competing testimony from experts on both sides offering vastly different views on how much the taking will affect the remainder of the property beyond the value of the land and structures taken by the government. Mere speculation must be discounted.
A DuPage County jury lived up to this challenge on November 9, 2017, finding in favor of the Illinois Department of Transportation (“IDOT”) in a dispute with a bank over the fair market value of property needed for a highway improvement project.
The 2.75-acre parcel at issue, located at Route 53 in Itasca, included a restaurant and banquet hall facility. At issue was the extent of damages caused by a strip taking along the parking lot frontage of the building. As part of this taking, several prime parking spaces and a business sign had to be relocated on the remainder property.
Finding no significant damages beyond the cost to cure for the movement of certain improvements, IDOT’s appraisers estimated the damages to be roughly $250,000. The owner’s appraisers, however, concluded the damages would be substantially higher at almost $700,000. IDOT’s appraisers, however, countered by showing that the subject property would continue to operate at the highest and best use as a restaurant and banquet hall facility with a reconfigured parking lot. Finding the testimony of IDOT’s appraisers to be more persuasive than that of the owner’s appraiser, the jury awarded $342,000 to the property owner for damages.
“It was evident from the verdict that the jury did an excellent job of weighing the credibility of the expert witnesses presented by both sides,” said Burke Burns & Pinelli, Ltd., partner Vincent D. Pinelli, who tried the case with BBP partner Christopher J. Hales. “We selected an attentive group who absorbed the nuances of appraisals and engineering issues absent any experience in either field.”
The case, IDOT v. Itasca Bank & Trust Co., 10-ED-104, was heard before Judge Brian R. McKillip in the Circuit Court of DuPage County from November 6-9, 2017.
For Pinelli and Hales, who represent IDOT as Special Assistant Attorneys General, it is not the first time they have prevailed on a complex damage-to-remainder jury trial. In July 2014, they successfully represented IDOT in the case of IDOT v. Chicago Title and Trust Co., a case involving similar damage to remainder claims for the same highway project. They also successfully represented IDOT in IDOT v. V-6 Corp., et al., in February 2015 in a case involving valuation of a parcel of land in McHenry County that had been used for a gas station/auto repair shop. In that case, the jury returned a verdict that was more than $600,000 below the owner’s valuation opinions and required the Defendants to refund $290,000 to IDOT from the preliminary just compensation award.
In February of 2017, Pinelli secured a favorable verdict for IDOT by persuading a jury that a large unimproved property at a major intersection in Cook County was suited for residential development only, not commercial development as the owner’s experts claimed. The resulting verdict saved IDOT hundreds of thousands of dollars.