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08/31/88 Ronald Jones Et Al., v. Consolidation Coal Company

August 31, 1988

RONALD JONES ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES

v.

CONSOLIDATION COAL COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

528 N.E.2d 33, 174 Ill. App. 3d 38, 123 Ill. Dec. 649 1988.IL.1330

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County; the Hon. Carl H. Becker, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LEWIS delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS and WELCH, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LEWIS

Defendant, Consolidation Coal Company, appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of Randolph County awarding $14,850 in compensatory damages to plaintiffs, Ronald and Shirley Jones, for property damage plaintiffs incurred as a result of defendant's blasting operations.

At trial, plaintiffs, Ronald and Shirley Jones, testified that they bought their home, outbuildings, and 20 acres near Sparta, Illinois, from Shirley's mother over 20 years ago. They paid $17,000 for the two-story house, a barn, two machine sheds, two small sheds, and the acreage. Plaintiffs remodeled and added to the house after they purchased it.

They experienced no damage to their home prior to 1978. In the early summer and fall of 1978, defendant conducted blasting operations at its Burning Star No. 3 Mine, approximately one-fourth mile from plaintiffs' residence. Plaintiffs testified that they felt strong vibrations from the periodic blasting at the mine. They began to notice damage to their residence and outbuildings after the blasting. The damage included: cracking plaster and fireplace, separation of paneling and a kitchen counter top from the wall, sagging kitchen floor, and water damage. In addition, they noticed cracking in the concrete floors of their garage and barn. Plaintiffs contacted defendant and their insurance agent about the damage. They asked Roy McKinley, a local contractor, to give them an estimate of the cost of repair. Plaintiffs effected some repairs to their residence prior to trial.

Clarence Clasen, plaintiffs' insurance agent, testified that he had been in plaintiffs' residence several times between 1971 and 1978. Prior to 1978, he did not notice significant cracking or water damage. He visited the Jones residence during or shortly after 1978 and observed cracking at various locations throughout the home and separation of the kitchen cabinet from the wall. He also noticed cracking of the masonry in a milkhouse attached to plaintiffs' barn.

Plaintiffs' neighbor, Larry Phelps, testified that he had been to plaintiffs' residence prior to and after the damage to the residence. He observed no damage prior to 1978; however, after 1978 he noticed cracking plaster and separation of the kitchen cabinet from the wall.

Clarence Welty testified that he lived approximately 2 1/2 miles east of plaintiffs' house. During the summer of 1978, he felt vibrations from the blasts at defendant's mine and noticed cracks forming in his house.

Roy McKinley, a retired carpenter, testified that he had bid hundreds of repair jobs during the period of time that he worked as an independent contractor. In November of 1978, he gave plaintiffs an itemized estimate (plaintiffs' exhibit No. 2) of the cost of repair work for their residence. The written estimate of $16,350 was later admitted as evidence and included $4,500 for tearing up the cracked concrete floor in plaintiffs' garage and replacing it with a new floor. McKinley acknowledged that the cost of replacing the floor was "expensive" and that he had, in the past, used caulk to fill cracks in "outside concrete." He stated that a car could probably be parked on the concrete, but driving a car in and out of a garage with a cracked floor would eventually result in more extensive cracking. McKinley stated that the concrete would eventually "break up" and it would have to be replaced.

Raymond Taucher, an administrative assistant for defendant in 1978, testified that he inspected plaintiffs' home in 1978 when plaintiffs reported damage because of blasting. Taucher saw the damage, but he did not believe it was the result of blasting. Taucher testified that, at its closest point, the defendant's mining operation was 2,000 feet from plaintiffs' residence. Taucher also described the blasting procedures employed by defendant.

Thomas Rheinecker, a farmer, auctioneer, and realtor with some construction experience, testified that plaintiffs' damage was caused by faulty construction methods or environmental factors other than blasting. Rheinecker valued the plaintiffs' residence at $17,000 to $20,000. Rheinecker stated that his appraisal included 1 1/2 acres around the house and the outbuildings. He testified that the outbuildings added nothing to the value of the property because they were ...


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