Appellate court upholds Crowder in basement flooding bench verdict
MOUNT VERNON – Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder successfully reached a verdict after jurors deadlocked over deception in a $300,000 home sale, Fifth District appellate judges decided on Aug. 2.
They affirmed her judgment ordering seller William Killion to pay $45,620 to buyers Danny Maronie and Linda Maronie.
"William Killion's change of testimony probably aided the court in its credibility determination," Presiding Justice Melissa Chapman wrote.
"At the trial, he stated that he did not tell the Maronies about the basement flooding history because he figured that he did not need to do so since they were having the home inspected," she wrote.
"When asked point blank by the prospective buyer of the home if there had been water leaking problems, he denied that fact," she wrote.
"His stated attitude was that he would let the chips fall where they may," she wrote.
Justices Thomas Welch and Stephen Spomer concurred.
They also affirmed a $40,000 fee for the Maronies' lawyer, Tom Burkart.
The Maronies bought the house, in Jerseyville, in 2001.
Killion and former wife Nancy Killion had built it in 1984.
Crowder held a six day trial in 2008, on claims that Killion and former wife Nancy Killion misrepresented the quality of plumbing and electrical work he performed.
Jurors glimpsed a slapstick scene of water flowing from a wall outlet.
When the foreman reported a deadlock, Burkart and defense lawyer Clifford Emons waived their right to retrial.
They asked Crowder to read the transcript and render a verdict.
She decided William Killion knew or should have known that the work he completed didn't meet code standards and was a safety hazard.
She found the Maronies didn't meet their burden with respect to Nancy Killion.
She denied punitive damages.
Burkart petitioned for a fee of $116,133.50, and Crowder trimmed it to $40,000.
No one liked the decision they had asked Crowder to make.
The Maronies appealed for punitive damages, Burkart appealed his award, and William Killion appealed to erase the judgment and further shrink Burkart's bill.
Killion argued that Crowder shouldn't have allowed expert testimony from architect Leroy Dawson, but Chapman found Dawson thoroughly qualified.
Chapman found no basis to conclude that Crowder abused her discretion in awarding Burkart's fee.
"The court carefully reviewed the billing entries provided and found numerous entries that were not applicable," she wrote.
She wrote that Crowder considered all aspects of the case in denying punitive damages.