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East Troy, Town of v. Soo Line R.R.

Citation: 11 ELR 20079
No. No. 79-2120, 653 F.2d 1123/15 ERC 1022/(7th Cir., 10/08/1980)

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirms a district court judgment awarding appellee municipality $500,000 in damages as a result of a toxic chemical spill from one of appellant's railroad cars. As a result of the spill, which the jury found to be negligently but not willfully caused, drinking water supplies in the vicinity were contaminated, residents became ill, and the town obtained a new water supply system at a cost of $125,000. The appeals court notes that the Wisconsin nuisance statute, Wis. Stat. §823.01, permits a municipality to recover damages only to remedy "injuries peculiar to itself." The court rules that the expense of installing the new water system, even though incurred "voluntarily," is fairly considered an injury because the town was obligated to provide its residents with this basic public service. Although this conclusion is poorly supported by dated case law in the area, the court express confidence that its result is the one which the state courts would reach were they to determine the issue anew. The court rejects appellant's argument that the town's recovery of full compensation is precluded by the fact that the cost of installing the sewer was reimbursed by a federal agency. Wisconsin adheres firmly to the collateral source rule. Finally, the court dismisses appellant's argument that a series of procedural errors by the trial court tainted its judgment and require the granting of new trial.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (18 pp. $2.75, ELR Order No. C-1233).

Counsel for Appellant
Hugh C. Griffin
Lord, Bissell & Brock
115 S. LaSalle St., Chicago IL 60603
(312) 443-0700

Reginald W. Nelson
Whyte & Hirschblock
2100 Marine Plaza, Milwaukee WI 53202
(414) 271-8210

Counsel for Appellee
John L. Maier, John P. Graves Jr., Thomas E. Greenwald
Graves, Greenwald, Maier & Miner
803 Talcott Bldg., Rockford IL 61101
(815) 965-3118

East, J.