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Department of Public Works & Bldgs. v. Seeber

MARCH 25, 1968.

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, FOR AND IN BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,

v.

MARIE F. SEEBER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE, ELIZABETH SEEBER MURPHY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE, KENNETH MURPHY, ET AL., AND INTERSTATE RESEARCH PARK, INC., DEFENDANTS, INTERSTATE RESEARCH PARK, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. FREDERICK S. GREEN, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

CRAVEN, J., DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This appeal arises from denial of a post-trial motion for a new trial filed by Interstate Research Park, Inc., a defendant in a condemnation case. Judgment in the amount of $96,000 was entered on the verdict of the jury which allowed compensation of $56,000 for the taking of 16.6 acres and $40,000 for damage to the remainder of 183.4 acres of defendant's land.

The errors assigned are based on the following:

1. Denial of defendant's motion to sever the trial proceedings with respect to the parcel here involved from another parcel separately owned by other defendants.

2. During the course of trial, the court denied defendant's motion to strike the testimony of one of plaintiff's expert witnesses after cross-examination revealed the foundation upon which his opinion as to the value of defendant's land was based.

3. Over defendant's objections, the jury heard evidence of the sale price of an 80-acre tract (referred to by the parties as the Burwash-Bash sale) on the theory it was comparable to the defendant's property.

4. The defendant also asserts that the damages awarded are inadequate as a matter of law.

There was no error committed in refusing to sever the trial involving defendant's parcel from another parcel under the circumstances of this case. The authority for trying the cases involving separate parcels of property in the same proceeding is statutory. (Ill Rev Stats 1963, c 47, § 5.) The action of a trial court in denying severance of the trial of parcels situated in the same county and involved in the same project has always been held to be discretionary with the trial court. We find no abuse of that discretion.

The differences between the two tracts of land here involved were not shown to be such as likely to result in confusion in the minds of the jury. There were no facts stated in defendant's motion which require a severance as a matter of law. It was within the discretion of the trial court, in this situation, to decide that the jury could hear both cases at the same time under the principles announced in Public Service Co. v. Leatherbee, 311 Ill. 505, 143 N.E. 97 (1924); Chicago & N.W. Ry. v. Chicago Mechanics' Institute, 239 Ill. 197, 87 N.E. 933 (1909); and Waukegan Park Dist. v. First Nat. Bank, 22 Ill.2d 238, 174 N.E.2d 824 (1961). The per-acre price of the jury verdict, as returned, for damage to land taken strongly suggests that the jury logically treated the separate tracts.

No error was committed in overruling the defendant's motion to strike testimony of the witness Hetishee, a witness for the plaintiff, who testified as to his expert opinion as a real estate broker of the fair cash market value of the Interstate Research Park, Inc. acreage. This witness testified on direct examination that on January 31, 1964, the highest and best use of defendant's property was light industrial and that the 16.6 acres being taken had a fair cash market value of $42,932; that the difference in the value of the remainder after the taking from its fair cash market value before the taking was $38,514. His opinions were reached after he was employed by the plaintiff to appraise the property in the spring of 1966, and in connection with his employment he was shown pictures of the condition of the property as of January 31, 1964, the date of the taking. He testified concerning natural gas and water lines being present in the park and he remembers seeing the property in January of 1964, as he had driven by on a couple of occasions. He did not know how many feet of streets had been built in the park on January 31, 1964. In his cross-examination, he stated his opinion was based, in part, upon two sales referred to by the parties as the "Wornack to French" and the "French to Southwood" sales, which the trial court had previously admitted as evidence in the case involving the other tract but had excluded as inapplicable to the defendant's tract. That exchange of questions and answers was as follows:

"Q Mr. Hetishee, you have testified that you considered certain comparable sales in arriving at your opinion, would you tell the jury what comparable sales that you considered and based your opinion on in valuing the Research Park tract?

"A Well, I considered all the sales that I had a knowledge of and the general market conditions and the ones that we mentioned on the Campbell tract earlier this morning and then some other sales that I had knowledge of along in the general vicinity.

"Q And did you base your opinion on these sales?

"A That and the general market conditions, yes, the sales that I mentioned and other ...


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