Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Small Task, Big Damages

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 27, 2011

No. 663

Those of us who have a zoning practice are required to do it all of the time: make a list of the names and addresses of all property owners whose land is adjacent to the property in question. Not too difficult.  Yes, you should include properties across the street. And if the tax map shows properties almost touching, include them too.  But other than that, its just a little map reading exercise.

Well, Chicago Title Insurance Company did one of those map reading exercises.  It probably billed a couple hundred for it. So, read what happened:

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – A St. Louis County jury awarded $48.4 million to an ethanol company against a title company that failed to notify property owners near a site where the ethanol company wanted to build a plant near Wichita. The award, after a 2-week trial, is the largest ever in St. Louis County Court.
     Abengoa Bioenergy wanted to build a plant in Colwich, Kan. Chicago Title was supposed to notify nearby property owners in order to obtain zoning to build it, but seven property owners were left off the notification list.
     After zoning was granted, the property owners found out and sued in 2008. Abengoa was forced to build a more expensive, less profitable plant in Granite City, which was finished 15 months after the first plant was supposed to be completed.
     The award includes the higher cost of building the plant in Granite City, the cost of the 15-month delay and the lower revenue from the plant.

Here’s a verdict report with a few more details. It is said to be the largest verdict in St. Louis County history. Wow!

Don’t look for a court opinion, at least not yet.  There is only a verdict slip to look at now.  But when it is appealed — and it will unless there is a settlement — there will be opinions to read. The article is probably wrong about Chicago Title notifying the adjacent landowners.  Almost certainly, Chicago simply prepared the list.

Now, without looking, how many states border Pennsylvania?



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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