Earlier in the year, attorneys from Spesia & Ayers successfully obtained a directed verdict on behalf of an energy company only six months after filing a condemnation suit in Will County. The defendant-landowner filed an appeal, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling on their Traverse and Motion to Dismiss without first conducting an evidentiary hearing, and that the trial court had subsequently made several erroneous evidentiary rulings during trial. After extensive briefing, Partner John Spesia argued the case before the Third District Appellate Court on behalf of the energy company.
A Traverse and Motion to Dismiss is a facial challenge to a condemnor’s eminent domain authority. In response to the Defendant-Landowner’s motion, Spesia & Ayers filed briefs and affidavits that clearly demonstrated that the Plaintiff energy company’s eminent domain authority had been properly granted by the ICC and properly exercised by the company thereafter. After reviewing the briefs and affidavits, the trial court determined that an evidentiary hearing was not necessary to decide the issues presented by the Traverse and Motion to Dismiss and subsequently denied said motion on the merits.
At trial, the Defendant-Landowner tried to present testimony, both his own and that of an expert appraiser. This testimony was based inter alia upon improper factors such as the alleged dangers related to pipelines and the fear and stigma arising therefrom. Confronted with this proposed testimony, Spesia & Ayers filed motions to bar both the Defendant-Landowner and his expert from testifying. After considered Spesia & Ayers’ motion and the Defendant-Landowners responses, the trial court barred the Defendant-Landowner in full and issued a ruling limiting his expert appraiser’s testimony to preclude him from testifying to opinions based on the improper factors.
On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s directed verdict, finding that its decision to deny the Traverse motion without conducting an evidentiary hearing was not an error. Moreover, the Third District concluded that the trial court had properly barred the Defendant-Landowner’s testimony and that it had properly limited the expert-appraiser’s opinions to those based on proper factors.
Ultimately, the appellate court affirmed the directed verdict in favor of the energy company. In the end, the amount awarded to the Defendant-Landowner was less than 25% of the amount offered him by the energy company prior to filing the condemnation suit.