APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Williamson County; the Hon.
C. ROSS REYNOLDS, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE HERSHEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from a judgment of the circuit court of Williamson County entered upon the verdict of a jury in a condemnation proceeding. The cause was instituted by a petition for condemnation filed by the Department of Public Works and Buildings of the State of Illinois, seeking to obtain the fee interest in certain property for purposes of a highway improvement. Certain of the defendants named in the petition filed cross petitions for damages to land not actually taken but adjacent to the land taken.
Upon issue joined, the matter was tried before a jury and this appeal is from the judgment of the court entered upon the verdicts of the jury. This court has jurisdiction upon appeal in that the case is one in which the State has a monetary interest and freeholds are involved.
Four parcels of land are involved in this proceeding. In one, referred to as tract 4, the entire fee interest was subject to condemnation. As to tract 1, .039 acres was to be taken in fee, together with .061 acres of tract 2 and .08 acres of tract 3. The latter three tracts are involved in the cross petitions to fix damages to the property not taken. Tract 1 is improved with a cafe and a motel. Tract 2 is improved with a motel, and tract 3 with a service station. Tract 4 is vacant land. Each tract now fronts on State Route No. 13 in Williamson County, at or near the intersection with State Aid Route 10, or Division Street. This intersection, known as "Carterville Crossroads," is about one mile from the Carterville business district.
The .039 acres of tract 1 to be taken is a strip 20 feet wide at the west end and 28 feet wide at the east end, across the 70-foot frontage. Direct access to Route 13 would be eliminated and in lieu thereof an access or frontage road would be provided.
The .061 acres of tract 2 to be taken is a strip 20 feet wide off the 140-foot frontage and again direct access to the highway that presently exists would be eliminated and access to the remaining parcel of tract 2 would be by the frontage road. The .08 acres of tract 3 is a strip 20 feet wide aross the 150-foot frontage plus an irregular parcel near the southwest corner of the tract, and the access to the highway for the remaining parcel of tract 3 would, as in the case of tracts 1 and 2, be by the frontage road.
The present Route 13 is a two-lane east and west highway. The improvement contemplated at the location of the property here involved would be the construction of two two-lane highways separated by an earthen strip. The north lane will carry west-bound traffic and east-bound traffic would be serviced by the south lane. The only connection between the two lanes would be a crossover some 750 feet west of tract 1 and 250 feet west of tract 3
The verdict of the jury awarded damages in each instance within the range of the testimony, except as to tract 3, wherein the award was $500 in excess of the high appraisal. A remittitur in that amount was filed by the owners of that tract.
The initial contention of the Department of Public Works and Buildings on appeal that the verdict was not within the range of the testimony was expressly waived at the time of the argument in this court and is not now relied upon in this appeal.
The State seeks to set aside the judgment and to obtain a new trial and in support thereof urges that the trial court permitted prejudicial and inflammatory argument by counsel for certain defendants and excluded admissible evidence. Complaint is also made of the trial court rulings on instructions.
The trial of this case involved the testimony of some 26 witnesses, several of whom were recalled on one or more occasions. The jury, at the inception of the trial, had an opportunity to view the premises. The testimony of most of the witnesses was, of course, concerned with fixing values of the land taken and expressing opinions as to the damages to the land not taken and, in this connection, it would appear that the jury in this proceeding was given more than the usual variety of opinion.
For instance, the low figure in the testimony as to the value of the land taken from tract 1 was $245 and the high figure was $7,000. The low figure on damages to the remaining property of this tract not taken was $1,200 and the high figure on this element was $41,500. The verdict of the jury as to this tract was $5,000 for the land taken and $24,000 for damages to the property not taken.
The State produced six witnesses for purposes of testimony on the question of value and damages. Five were local to the area and one was a motel owner currently operating a motel south of the city of Springfield.
During the cross-examination of these witnesses it was developed that they were paid by the State for their services as appraisers in this proceeding and in several instances it was shown that the State had repeatedly used the services of the witnesses as appraisers in other proceedings wherein the Department of Public Works and Buildings was engaged in condemnation for highway right-of-way purposes. One witness testified to having made "about 100 appraisals" and stated that his fee for appraising all of the property, including the property involved in this proceedings at this crossroad, was $750. The cross-examination further developed that one of the witnesses was not engaged in the buying and selling of real estate but, ...