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Dept. of Pub. Wks. & Bldgs. v. Roehrig

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 23, 1976.

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,

v.

EARL A. ROEHRIG ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. ROBERT L. GAGEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied February 4, 1977.

The petitioner, the Illinois Department of Public Works and Buildings, appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of St. Clair County which awarded the defendant, Earl Roehrig, $165,000 in a condemnation suit as just compensation for 13.78 acres of his land.

The principal questions in this appeal are whether Illinois civil procedure allows the use of a motion in limine to prevent the offering of inadmissible evidence at trial, and whether a circuit court's error in granting a landowner the right to open and to close a condemnation suit, despite his failure to file a cross-petition for damages to that part of his land not condemned, requires reversal of the circuit court's judgment.

On April 21, 1971, the Illinois Department of Public Works and Buildings (hereinafter called "the Department") filed two petitions in the circuit court of St. Clair County to condemn 5.10 acres out of a 142.5-acre tract owned by Earl Roehrig alone, and 8.68 acres out of a 79.6-acre tract owned by Earl Roehrig and his wife, Virginia Roehrig, as joint tenants. The total area which the Department sought to take from the Roehrigs was thus 13.78 acres.

Both the Roehrigs' tracts were located about 3 miles south of Lebanon, Illinois, along Illinois Route 4. The 142.5-acre tract, which the Department's petition called tract 115, lay perpendicular to Route 4 with two-thirds of its area west, and one-third of its area east, of Route 4. The 79.6-acre tract, which the Department's petition denominated tract 119, lay south of the first tract and east of Route 4. The map on the following page illustrates the course of Interstate 64 through the Roehrigs' property. The shaded areas, comprising tracts A and B of parcel 115 and tracts B, C, and E of parcel 119, represent the 13.78 acres of land condemned in this proceeding.

The Department earlier had condemned part of the Roehrigs' land as a site for an interchange at the junction of Route 4 and Interstate 64. An alteration in the design of the entrance and exit ramps, which was intended to make the ramps longer and safer, required the Department to seek condemnation of the additional 13.78 acres of the Roehrigs' land involved in this case. This acreage consisted of five irregularly shaped parcels located at the northwest, northeast, and southeast corners of the interchange. (See map.)

On April 22, 1971, the Department moved for a quick take of the 13.78 acres pursuant to section 2.1 of the Eminent Domain Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 47, par. 2.1). After the Department deposited with the treasurer of St. Clair County 125% of the amount preliminarily determined by the circuit court to be just compensation, in accordance with section 2.3 of the Eminent Domain Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 47, par. 2.3), the circuit court ordered, on July 23, 1971, that the fee simple interest in the acreage should be vested in the Department immediately.

Because the Department demanded a jury trial, the issue of just compensation for the Roehrigs' land was tried before a jury pursuant to section 1 of the Eminent Domain Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 47, par. 1) and article I, section 15, of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. The trial began on April 21, 1975.

The Roehrigs never filed a cross-petition for damages caused by the condemnation to the part of their land which was not condemned. Instead, they filed a motion in limine on April 21, 1975, requesting that the Department be forbidden from referring in its opening statement to, and introducing evidence on, benefits that would accrue to the rest of their land as a result of the condemnation. The motion also requested that the Department be prohibited from referring to the previous taking of a portion of the Roehrigs' land for the interchange. The circuit court granted both parts of the motion.

The circuit court allowed the Roehrigs to make their opening statement before the Department made its opening statement. Throughout the trial the Roehrigs preceded the Department. They introduced their evidence before the Department introduced its evidence. They spoke first and last in the presentation of closing arguments. The Department objected on the second day of trial, after the completion of opening statements, the examination of one witness, and the jury's view of the premises, to the Roehrigs' being allowed to open and to close in the condemnation suit. The record also indicates, however, that the Department raised this objection before the opening statements were given.

The Roehrigs called three, and the Department called two, expert witnesses to testify concerning the fair market value of the land that was taken.

Two of the Roehrigs' witnesses were brothers who had served as real estate agents in numerous sales of land near interstate highway interchanges. They testified that, of the 222.1 acres owned by the Roehrigs, 22.1 acres along the interchange ramps were best suited for commercial use as a location for gas stations, restaurants, and motels, and the remaining 200 acres were best used as farmland. They valued the commercial land at $12,632 per acre, or $280,000 for 22.1 acres, and the farm land at $800 per acre, or $160,000 for 200 acres. Their estimate of the value of all the Roehrigs' land was thus $440,000. They regarded the 13.78 acres condemned by the Department as composed of 13.68 acres of commercial land, worth $172,800 and .10 acre of farmland, worth $100, with a total value of $172,900.

Another witness for the Roehrigs, a real estate broker and appraiser, testified that the 222.1 acres consisted of 204 acres of farmland, worth $163,200, and 18 acres of potentially commercial land, worth $235,200, and had a total value of about $398,000. He said that the best use of the 13.78 acres of condemned land was commercial, and that it was worth $180,000.

In evaluating the condemned land, the Roehrigs' witnesses considered sale of comparable land. The land most like the 13.78 acres in this case was five acres at the northeast corner of the same interchange which Earl Roehrig sold to an oil company for $48,500 in 1967. One witness testified that inflation had increased the value of the 5-acre tract by $19,400 between 1967 and 1971, and that the laying of a city water main past the tract had added $15,000 to its value as a site for a gas station. The value of these five acres, as of the time the Department filed its petitions in 1971 to condemn the additional 13.78 acres of the Roehrigs' land was, therefore, $82,900.

One expert witness for the Department testified that the total value of the Roehrigs' farm was $446,000. He said three potential commercial sites existed on this property which were worth $189,000. Nevertheless, he maintained that the best use of the 13.78 acres condemned by the Department was agricultural, and that the acreage's value was $46,074.

The Department's other expert testified that all the Roehrigs' land was worth $417,000. He said that land near the interchange had commercial potential and was worth $189,000. He also asserted, however, that the 13.78 acres taken by the Department had a value of only $19,000.

During the conference on jury instructions the attorney for the Roehrigs suggested that Virginia Roehrig had died during the pendency of the suit. Earl Roehrig then remained as the only defendant in the case.

Among other instructions, the circuit court charged the jury with Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction (IPI), ...


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