Fifth District affirms dismissal of lawsuit over demolition; sides with city of Alton

By Bethany Krajelis | Oct 24, 2012


The City of Alton did not have an obligation to notify the owner of personal property stored in a foreclosed structure before demolishing it, the Fifth District Appellate Court has held.

In an unpublished order released Tuesday, the appellate court affirmed Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis’ dismissal of a complaint Val Alen Inc. brought against the city of Alton following the demolition of property known as 913-915 Humboldt Court in Alton.

Val Alen purchased the Humboldt Court property from Bank of America, which had taken ownership of it in a foreclosure action.

“There was some confusion at the closing of this transaction,” the appellate court order states, explaining that the plaintiff had been given the deed to the south half of the property even though he should have received the deed to the north half.

While trying to correct the title problem, Van Alen stored personal property –building supplies and home repair items – on the premises of the property.

During this period of time, the city of Alton demolished the Humboldt Court property. Minutes from a 2009 Alton City Council meeting show the city sought to demolish a structure at 913 Humboldt Court because it was deemed unsafe.

As a result of the demolition, the plaintiff’s personal property was destroyed and disposed of.  The complaint alleged damages in excess of $50,000.

Van Alen sued, claiming that the city was negligent in demolishing the structure because some of its employees knew the plaintiff had personal property stored there and as such, should have known that demolishing the structure would cause damage to the plaintiff’s property.

In addition, the plaintiff alleged that the city was negligent by failing to remove the personal property, inspect the premises, identify Van Alen as the owner of the personal property and give it appropriate notice.

The city sought dismissal of the suit, claiming the plaintiff did not own the structure. It also asserted that it provided appropriate notice under the state’s demolition statute, 65 ILCS 5/11-31-1.

Callis dismissed the plaintiff’s third amended complaint, a decision that a panel of the appellate court affirmed this week.

Justice Richard Goldenhersh delivered the court’s unpublished order. Justices James Wexstten and Thomas Welch concurred.

Goldenhersh wrote that Callis was right to dismiss the complaint because the state’s demolition statute does not require specific notice to owners of personal property located in the structure to be demolished.

He also noted that Van Alen was not the property’s owner of record at the time of the demolition and that it failed to indicate a duty that the city allegedly breached.

The citation for the case is Van Alen v. City of Alton, 2012 IL App (5th) 110463-U.

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