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Richards v. Village of Edinburg

AUGUST 5, 1968.

JAMES RICHARDS, JR., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

THE VILLAGE OF EDINBURG, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Christian County; the Hon. GAIL E. McWARD, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.

GOLDENHERSH, J.

Defendant, Village of Edinburg, appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Christian County entered upon a jury verdict in the amount of $3,000 in favor of the plaintiffs, James Richards, Jr., and Ellen Richards.

The evidence shows that in August of 1963 defendant commenced, and in August of 1964 completed, the construction of a sewage disposal plant.

Since 1959 plaintiffs have occupied a home situated approximately 123 feet from the tank in which the sewage is processed. The property was purchased under a contract for deed from Katie Schwartz, named as a party plaintiff, but dismissed from the suit prior to trial.

Witnesses called by plaintiffs testified that there were no offensive odors in the vicinity of plaintiffs' home prior to the construction of the sewage plant, and since its construction there were frequently offensive odors there. They described the odors as "terrible," "funny," a "sewer smell," and a "garbage smell." Plaintiff Ellen Richards testified that the view from her kitchen window was of a large uncovered sewage tank "with filthy water constantly churning in it."

Defendant called the engineer who designed the plant. He explained its operation and stated that the plant met all of the requirements of the State Sanitary Water Board. He testified that the processing tank had no top, a tank with no top is probably more efficient for a town the size of defendant, the water flowing from the plant was clean and clear with a low bacteria count, there are odors from the sewage in the plant but the chemicals used in the processing mask the odor. He described the resultant odor as an "earthy type," similar to that of a freshly-plowed field.

A member of the Board of Trustees of the defendant village testified that the plant had been operated in the same manner since its installation and no changes were contemplated.

Two witnesses who lived respectively, one block, and one and one-half blocks from the sewage plant testified that there were no odors from the plant at their homes.

Defendant contends that the record does not show a permanent nuisance to exist, and the nuisance, if any, is abatable. It argues that the court erred in admitting evidence of the depreciation in market value of plaintiffs' property because of the nuisance, contending that such measure of damage applies only to a permanent nuisance. Defendant also contends that the trial court erred in admitting the testimony of plaintiff, James Richards, Jr., and two witnesses as to the value of plaintiffs' property. Defendant further contends that the trial court erred in refusing to direct a verdict for defendant because plaintiffs failed to prove that the operation of the sewage plant caused the offensive odors, or alternatively, that the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence and the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion for a new trial.

In support of its contention that the trial court should have directed a verdict, defendant argues that plaintiff failed to prove that the operation of the sewer plant was in some manner defective. Negligence is not involved in an action for nuisance, Belmar Drive-In Theatre v. Illinois State Toll Highway Commission, 34 Ill.2d 544, 216 N.E.2d 788, and a nuisance may be created or maintained with the best or highest degree of care, Menolascino v. Superior Felt & Bedding Co., 313 Ill. App. 557, 40 N.E.2d 813.

Defendant also argues that the testimony of the engineer shows that the odors were effectively masked and there is no evidence that the chemicals were ever omitted. It also argues that there is no evidence that the odors described as "funny," "terrible," and a "sewer smell" are necessarily objectionable to the extent of creating a nuisance. As previously noted negligence is not an element of the cause of action, and the latter contention is fully disposed of in Belmar Drive-In Theatre v. Illinois State Toll Highway Commission (supra), wherein at page 547, the Supreme Court said, "So far as injury to the person is concerned, it is held that in deciding whether a particular annoyance is sufficient to constitute a nuisance the criterion is `its effect upon an ordinarily reasonable man, — that is, a normal person of ordinary habits and sensibilities, . . .'"

Defendant contends further that the evidence fails to show the odors complained of came from defendant's plant. The testimony shows there were no such odors prior to the erection of the plant and their presence since that time. On all these matters the issue was one of fact, the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict, and it is not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Relying upon Dierks v. Highway Com'rs of Addison Tp., 142 Ill. 197, 31 N.E. 496; Fink v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, 71 Ill. App.2d 276, 218 N.E.2d 240; and Iliff v. School Directors, 45 Ill. App. 419, defendant argues the nuisance is shown to be abatable and the court erred in admitting evidence of the depreciation in the market value of the property. An examination of these cases shows them to be clearly distinguishable. In Dierks plaintiff sought to enjoin the transportation of sewage through an open ditch across plaintiff's lands. Further, it is clear from the language appearing at page 210 of the opinion that plaintiff could recover money damages to the extent that the construction of the ditch impaired the value of her farm.

In Fink it is clearly shown that there was an alternative method available which would handle the ...


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