Saw this case while doing some research for a new client who suffered extensive damage to his condo…
The Illinois Appellate Court, Second District recently handed down a decision involving the damages available[or more accurately NOT available] to people displaced from their homes due to the actions of others. In Mayer v. Chicago Mechanical Services[CMS] the heating and air conditioning system in a condominium building had been installed by CMS. Two of the plaintiffs, Steve and Ann Mayer lived in one unit, while the additional plaintiffs, Kelly, Jeffrey and Emily Albrecht lived in the unit directly below the Mayers. Mold made both the units uninhabitable for a long period of time. The plaintiffs sued CMS as well as a number of other defendants. In their claims against CMS, plaintiffs alleged they inhaled fumes emitted by the mold, became sick and were displaced from their homes. On the eve of trial, pursuant to motions filed by CMS the plaintiffs were barred from presenting any evidence of inconvenience as a result of being displaced from their homes. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing they were indeed allowed to recover for being forced to leave their homes.
The Appellate Court first noted that whether damages for the discomfort and inconvenience of having to obtain temporary housing had never before been considered by an Illinois Court. The Court, after looking to other states for guidance, ruled that under the facts presented, there would be no relief for the plaintiffs. Although acknowledging that there are certainly logistical difficulties associated with temporary housing[lack of space; distance from employment, etc.] those difficulties were not the focus of plaintiffs’ case. Instead, plaintiffs were focused primarily on “… the abstract sense of satisfaction associated with one’s home” such as sleeping in one’s own bed or cooking in one’s own kitchen. The plaintiffs, the Court observed, advanced a theory of damages more rooted in sentimental attachment to one’s home instead of the actual out of pocket expenses or related costs associated with being suddenly and involuntarily uprooted. As a consequence, the Court ruled the damages sought were too nebulous to serve as a basis of an award. The trial court’s ruling was affirmed.
So, the lesson from this opinion is that in order to recover, plaintiffs should focus on the provable out of pocket expenses caused by having to live elsewhere.