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Lewis v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co.

OPINION FILED AUGUST 7, 1981.

KITTY LEWIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ILLINOIS BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Menard County; the Hon. LYLE E. LIPE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of Menard County entered pursuant to section 13 of "An Act in regard to forcible entry and detainer" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 57, par. 13). The judgment awarded possession of the premises to plaintiff.

Plaintiff owned the fee simple title to the premises which were a strip of land 55 feet wide and 3,960 long and constituted the westerly portion of a larger tract. The strip had been dedicated as an easement for highway purposes some years earlier by the plaintiff and a rural public highway existed thereon.

Defendant entered into negotiations with the plaintiff for permission to lay underground telephone cable in the highway easement but these negotiations came to naught. Notwithstanding, defendant proceeded to lay the cable in the easement commencing in May 1980, and ending about July 1980. The forcible entry and detainer suit followed in November 1980.

• 1 "A telephone line in a public highway is an additional burden upon the fee, for which the owner of the fee is entitled to compensation." (Burrall v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co. (1906), 224 Ill. 266, 268, 79 N.E. 705.) Defendant does not dispute this principle of law and has maintained that it stands ready at all times to pay compensation to plaintiff. The parties diverge in their opinions as to how much compensation should be paid.

Defendant relies on section 9-113 of the Illinois Highway Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 121, par. 9-113) and its application in Cammers v. Marion Cablevision (1976), 64 Ill.2d 97, 354 N.E.2d 353. That statutory section is read as follows:

"§ 9-113. No ditches, drains, track, rails, poles, wires, pipe line or other equipment of any public utility company, municipal corporation or other public or private corporation, association or person shall be located, placed or constructed upon or along any highway, or upon any township or district road, other than a highway or road within a municipality without first obtaining the written consent of the appropriate highway authority as hereinafter provided for in this Section.

Upon receipt of a petition therefor, consent to so use a highway may be granted subject to such terms and conditions not inconsistent with this Code as the highway authority deems for the best interest of the public. The petitioner shall pay to the owners of property abutting upon the affected highways established as though by common law plat all damages the owners may sustain by reason of such use of the highway, such damages to be ascertained and paid in the manner provided by law for the exercise of the right of eminent domain.

Such consent shall be granted by the Department in the case of a State highway; by the county board in the case of a county highway; by either the highway commissioner or the county superintendent of highways in the case of a township or district road, provided that if consent is granted by the highway commissioner, the petition shall be filed with the commissioner at least 30 days prior to the proposed date of the beginning of construction, and that if written consent is not given by the commissioner within 30 days after receipt of the petition, the applicant may make written application to the county superintendent of highways for consent to the construction. This Section does not vitiate, extend or otherwise affect any consent granted in accordance with law prior to the effective date of this Code to so use any highway." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 121, par. 9-113.

Evidence was presented by defendant of permits obtained from the Illinois Department of Transportation, but in view of our disposition of this case, we deem those irrelevant and need not discuss their effectiveness.

In Cammers, the plaintiff sought a mandatory injunction and damages against the defendant for placing a television cable over his premises without permission. The defendant relied upon section 9-113 and a letter from a county superintendent of highways granting permission to lay the cable in the county highways. The supreme court held that injunction was not the proper remedy and said:

"While section 9-113 requires a corporation installing equipment in a right-of-way to obtain the written consent of the superintendent of highways, that consent does not relieve such a corporation from liability for whatever damages are suffered by abutting owners. The appellate court was therefore correct in remanding the cause for a determination of damages." 64 Ill.2d 97, 102, 354 N.E.2d 353, 355.

Mr. Justice Ryan, dissenting, indicated that he was apprehensive that the majority opinion delegated sub silentio the power of eminent domain to a private corporation. Defendant Illinois Bell here adopts the inference and maintains that so long as damages are ...


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