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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Appellate Court Upheld Rulings in Favor of Village in Lawsuit for Property Damages

In three related decisions, the Appellate Court upheld a trial court's ruling in favor of a municipality in three lawsuits brought by a resident claiming the municipality damaged his property. Ferrari v.Village of Glen Carbon, 2023 IL App (5th) 210373-U; Ferrari v. Village ofGlen Carbon, 2023 IL App (5th) 210374-UFerrari v. Village of Glen Carbon,2023 IL App (5) 210375-U.

A resident brought several small claims actions against a municipality alleging that actions of Village employees and agents resulted in damages to the resident’s property and seeking monetary damages. Three of the resident’s claims were consolidated and heard together in a single hearing by the trial court.

In the first case, the resident claimed he incurred damages when Village employees allegedly trimmed back and killed bushes on the resident’s property. The trial court ruled that the Village was not liable for damages because Village employees have a common law privilege to trim the residents’ bushes in order to maintain public roadways.

In the second case, the resident argued that Village employees trespassed and caused damage to his property when repairing a public roadway. The trial court noted that although Village employees had a legal privilege to temporarily access the resident’s property to make repairs to a public roadway, the Village's actions in leaving its equipment at the resident’s property for several days constituted a "trespass." However, the trial court only awarded nominal damages of $1.00 because the trespass was incidental to needed repairs of a public roadway.

In the third case, the resident claimed the Village was liable for damages to the resident’s car when the Village accessed the property to mow the resident’s grass when the resident failed to maintain its lawn in accordance with Village requirements. The trial court determined the Village had a right to access the resident's property, but that the Village was negligent and damaged the resident’s car, and the court awarded damages to cover the resident's costs of repair.

On appeal of all three rulings, the resident argued the trial court erred in its rulings and violated the resident’s Sixth Amendment rights when it denied him an opportunity to conduct a second cross-examination of a Village witness and refused to allow the resident to introduce evidence rebutting the witness’s testimony. The Appellate Court rejected the resident's arguments, finding that the trial court record that was submitted by the resident was incomplete and the resident had waived the Sixth Amendment claim. 

Additionally, the resident also argued on appeal that the trial judge was biased in favor of the Village and engaged in an impermissible ex-parte communication with the Village’s attorney and improperly advised and assisted the Village's attorney with its defense. The Appellate Court rejected the resident’s bias arguments, holding that the resident's vague allegations of bias were unsupported by the record and insufficient to “overcome the presumption that the trial judge was fair and impartial.” 

Post Authored by Tyler Smith & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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