Village Has Jurisdiction To Appeal Abandonment Of Eminent Domain Case

The Village of Bellwood, Illinois thought it wanted seven private properties for its own. Bellwood condemned the properties and brought an eminent domain case against the property owners. All of the parties agreed to an amount the property owners would be paid by Bellwood for the properties. The trial court ordered (1) Bellwood would take title upon payment to the property owners, (2) each party waived their right to appeal, and (3) the settlement order was final.

Bellwood reneged on the deal before it paid the property owners. Bellwood claimed the eminent domain statute allowed it to back out of the agreement and to abandon its eminent domain case any time before it took ownership of properties. But the trial court denied Bellwood’s request to abandon the case because “you can’t just go out and make agreements and then all of a sudden back out on them.”

Bellwood appealed, but the property owners contested appellate jurisdiction. They argued (1) the appeal waiver in the trial court’s order prevented Bellwood from appealing, and (2) the order denying Bellwood’s request to abandon the lawsuit was not final and appealable.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed with the property owners and ruled there was appellate jurisdiction. The appeal waiver in the trial court’s order did not preclude Bellwood’s appeal because Bellwood contested the order disallowing its abandonment of the case, not the actual settlement order. And the order was final and appealable, the appellate court ruled, because it disposed of the issues between the parties. This is how the appellate court explained it:

Here, we find that the order denying Bellwood’s motion to abandon is a final and appealable order because it disposed of the rights of the parties and terminated the litigation. The circuit court’s order denied Bellwood’s motion to abandon the eminent domain proceedings and set the parties’ rights and obligations in accordance with the agreed orders. All that was left for the court to do was to execute the judgment on the agreed orders.

Further, we cannot construe the parties’ waiver of the right to appeal in the agreed orders as a waiver of Bellwood’s right to appeal from the denial of its motion to abandon. Bellwood is not attacking or contesting the agreed orders; rather, Bellwood is contesting only the denial of its motion to abandon, an order separate and distinct from the agreed orders. Therefore, the parties’ waiver of the right to appeal as provided for in the agreed orders does not affect Bellwood’s right to appeal the denial of its motion to abandon.

In the end, the appellate court ruled that Bellwood could abandon the eminent domain case. Read the whole case, Village of Bellwood v. American National Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago, 2011 IL App (1st) 09311, by clicking here.

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