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HERMAN YUDACUFSKI v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/03/80)

decided: November 3, 1980.

HERMAN YUDACUFSKI, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County in case of Herman Yudacufski v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation (formerly Department of Highways), No. 364 September Term, 1965 and No. 356 March Term, 1967.

COUNSEL

Thomas B. Rutter, with him Mary B. Stein, for appellant.

Martin Burman, Assistant Attorney General, with him Charles A. Buechel, Jr., Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, and Harvey Bartle, III, Acting Attorney General, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 449]

In this eminent domain case, condemnee-appellant Herman Yudacufski has appealed from a denial of a motion for new trial, after the entry of judgment on a jury verdict in the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County, awarding him damages of $75,000.

[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 450]

In 1964, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation took 88.7 acres of appellant's 790.67 acre tract. In 1973, after extensive hearings and a view of the premises, the board of view awarded damages of $376,400. Both parties appealed to the trial court, where condemnee unsuccessfully petitioned for a change of venue because of alleged local prejudice against coal operators. Condemnee claimed the damages from the taking to be between approximately $3.3 million and $5.5 million; the Commonwealth's sole valuation witness appraised total damages at $37,000.

Condemnee's land was to be developed as a commercial-industrial and commercial-recreational project containing a coal preparation plant, lake, golf course, race track and freight airport. The condemnation and subsequent construction of a limited access highway split the tract into two non-contiguous parts.

At the de novo trial, condemnee presented four expert witnesses, whose testimony was based on information supplied by condemnee's developer, a registered professional engineer. None of these witnesses had seen the property before the condemnation. The Commonwealth also presented four expert witnesses; its valuation expert was the only witness who had visited the premises both before and after condemnation. The testimony conflicted strongly as to the extent that condemnation had interfered with the development of the tract.*fn1 The jury conducted an extensive view of the property.

Condemnee argues that the new trial motion should have been granted because (1) the lower court

[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 451]

    erred in denying his petition for a change of venue; (2) the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; and ...


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