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VAUGHAN v. COMMONWEALTH (04/17/62)

April 17, 1962

VAUGHAN
v.
COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 42, March T., 1962, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Beaver County, Sept. T., 1958, No. 6, in case of Harold J. Vaughan v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

Raymond L. Brennan, Assistant Attorney General, with him Robert W. Cunliffe, Assistant Attorney General, John R. Rezzolla, Chief Counsel, and David Stahl, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Harvey R. Robinson, with him Alan D. Webb, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.

Author: Cohen

[ 407 Pa. Page 190]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

Appellant, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appeals from the lower court's entry of a judgment for the appellee following the refusal of a request for a new trial after the jury verdict in an eminent domain proceeding.

The question raised by this appeal is: Did the trial court commit either a clear abuse of discretion or an error of law which controlled the outcome of the case in refusing the Commonwealth's motion for a new trial on the ground that the verdict returned by the jury was excessive, contrary to law and against the weight of the evidence? (See Bohner v. Eastern Express, Inc., 405 Pa. 463, 175 A.2d 864 (1961)).

The Commonwealth condemned and took the land in question, a plot 1.46 of an acre, in order to expand

[ 407 Pa. Page 191]

    the roadway of a state highway which it abutted. The board of viewers made an award of $700 to the appellee who, thereupon, appealed to the lower court.

At trial, appellee produced three real estate appraisers as expert witnesses for the purpose of establishing the damages he sustained as a result of the taking. They testified that the property was uniquely adaptable to sundry commercial uses since no zoning restrictions existed. Each testified that the aftertaking value of the property was $100, and set out damages respectively at $89,900, $83,650, and $68,200. On the other hand, the Commonwealth's sole witness, the chief tax assessor of Beaver County, testified that the property was worth $625 prior to taking, and nothing after that event. Appellee had purchased the lot in question at a tax sale sixteen months earlier for $300. Other evidence indicated that the lot was totally unimproved, and little more than a "rock-pile." There is nothing on the record to reveal the reason for the enormous alleged appreciation in value of the property within the short period of time between the acquisition and the taking.

At trial, the jury returned a verdict of $25,000. The lower court entered judgment on the verdict after refusing appellant's motion for ...


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