Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed December 1, 2011

Forest Preserve District of Du Page County v. First National Bank of Franklin Park, 2011 IL 110759

Appellate citation: 401 Ill. App. 3d 966.

JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Garman, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

On December 21, 1999, the Forest Preserve District of Du Page County filed a condemnation action to acquire 204 acres of land consisting of an existing public golf course and undeveloped land adjoining it. This acquisition was resisted by the landowners, and trial in the matter did not take place until late 2007.

The section of the Eminent Domain Act which is applicable here provided that valuation should be based on the filing date of the complaint. This had long been the common law rule in Illinois and was codified into statute in 1972. Although the Eminent Domain Act had been amended effective January 1, 2007, slightly less than a year before trial, to allow a circuit judge to revise a valuation date in the interests of equity and justice, that amendment specifically stated that it did not apply to complaints filed before its effective date and, thus, is not applicable here.

On December 12, 2007, the jury valued the property at $10.725 million as of the 1999 complaint-filing date, but the landowners complained that an increase in value had occurred by 2007. They contended that the value of the acreage had risen in the intervening years to be more than twice that amount, namely, to $25.5 million. The landowners obtained no relief in the trial court and appealed. The appellate court reached a different result, with which the supreme court, in this decision, agreed.

In 1984, prior to the filing of the instant action, the United States Supreme Court held in Kirby v. United States, 467 U.S. 1, that the constitutional fifth amendment right to just compensation entitles a landowner to fair market value on the date of taking, which it defined as payment and the passing of title. Remarkably, this decision has had no impact on Illinois law until now, and this case is the first to present the issue.

The supreme court held that these circumstances raise fifth amendment issues as to just compensation. It agreed with the appellate court that the jury's verdict should be vacated and the cause should be remanded to the circuit court for a determination as to whether the owners were bring provided with substantially less than the market value of their property. If so, the trial court must set a procedure for arriving at a proper determination of just compensation. The Illinois Constitution requires that just compensation be decided by a jury, but plaintiff condemnor retains the right to abandon its attempt to obtain the property and withdraw its deposit.

The appellate court judgment was affirmed.