Both the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions provide that private property may be taken by a public entity, a public utility, a common carrier by pipeline, or a natural gas pipeline company when necessary to achieve a public purpose. Whether you are a unit of Illinois local government, a company operating with a certificate from the Illinois Commerce Commission or a natural gas pipeline company with an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the attorneys at Spesia & Ayers can help you acquire the property you need while still meeting your construction timeline. We have experience in federal and state court litigation and have tried eminent domain cases across the State of Illinois. Retired judge Tom Ewert, one of our “of counsel” advisors, is a retired Illinois Circuit Court Judge who presided over hundreds of eminent domain proceedings during his time on the bench. He has also served as a commissioner in federal eminent domain cases arising out of a natural gas pipeline construction project that involved over $18 million in claims by landowners and offers great insight into the federal condemnation process. In addition to courtroom expertise trying eminent domain cases, partner John Spesia has practical experience that he gained from working as a right-of-way agent for Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America and Kinder Morgan before going to law school.
The experienced attorneys at Spesia & Ayers can provide counsel to clients throughout all phases of their projects, from permitting and land acquisition to actual construction. Our attorneys have experience negotiating with townships, counties, water districts and other local governments. Lawyers at Spesia & Ayers also have experience negotiating with the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The attorneys at Spesia & Ayers possess exceptional experience advising land departments and their agents responsible for negotiating in good-faith with landowners, as well as navigating the trial and appeal process. Utilizing this experience, Spesia & Ayers can help ensure the successful and timely completion of your project. Our attorneys will identify and retain those expert witnesses who are the most qualified, experienced, and reputable to navigate the complex methodology required by Illinois courts to establish “fair market value.” Our lawyers have filed and tried eminent domain cases in courts across Illinois, from Cook County to Marion County, and counties in-between. Our appellate team, which includes retired appellate court Justice Kent Slater, has handled cases in nearly every appellate district in Illinois. This experience has given our attorneys the knowledge, abilities, and resources they need to provide effective assistance in any and all facets of eminent domain cases.
Early Access for Construction
Attorneys at Spesia & Ayers understand that “time is of the essence” when executing a plan to acquire property using eminent domain. We will work tirelessly to craft strategies that move cases to trial and get them resolved without delaying your construction timeline. Our attorneys were recently involved in a landmark decision from the Illinois Appellate Court that allowed a pipeline company to gain access to property necessary to construct a pipeline prior to a jury verdict. The Appellate Court in that case rejected the landowner claims that the result was an unauthorized “quick take.” This decision, along with efficient and effective discovery practices, allowed Spesia & Ayers’ client to gain access and proceed with construction on 22 properties within 10 months from filing of the complaints – all while litigation was still pending. An even shorter timeline is possible for natural gas pipeline companies operating with a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because there is a long line of federal decisions that allow natural gas pipeline companies to gain access to property and construct long before an eminent domain case is concluded.
Successful Defense Against Landowner Damages Claims
Should it be necessary to take your eminent domain case to trial, rest assured that the attorneys at Spesia & Ayers have the experience and skill necessary to protect your interests and secure the results you need. Our team of eminent domain trial lawyers has successfully defended against millions of dollars of claims by landowners for “damages to the remainder,” securing reasonable verdicts and settlements and largely avoiding costly jury verdicts. When a company recently constructed over 250 miles of pipeline, it turned to Spesia & Ayers to file 76 eminent domain cases across eight Illinois counties. Cases were brought to trial starting eight months after complaints were filed. Within a fifteen-month period, Spesia & Ayers successfully completed all 76 cases by settlement or verdict. Spesia & Ayers’ lawyers tried or were awarded summary judgment on cases pending in six different counties, and landowner claims that exceeded $59 million resulted in just over $1.2 million in verdicts. One representative settlement was a case where a landowner claimed in excess of $5.4 million and settled for $350,000.
Other representative projects include filing and resolving eminent domain cases in connection with the Alliance Pipeline natural gas pipeline project which was authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and brought natural gas from British Columbia to the Chicago area. Spesia & Ayers lawyers have also successfully defended a municipal client acquiring property to extend a road. Due to our attorneys’ knowledge and expertise, a $1.7 million demand by a landowner in that case resulted in a mere $250,000 settlement. Our attorneys have also filed eminent domain cases to acquire property for the installation of a public water system.
If you next project involves acquiring property rights, contact one of our attorneys today.