Bensenville residents again claim O'Hare runway noise illegal property taking; Chicago takes case to federal court

By Jonathan Bilyk | Mar 21, 2016

A group of Bensenville residents whose homes lie in the flight path of a busy newer runway at O’Hare International Airport have made another attempt at suing the city of Chicago for allegedly demolishing their quality of life by allowing the aircraft to roar past 500 feet or less above their homes almost round the clock.

And, saying the latest version of the residents’ lawsuit had for the first time raised claims that the new runway and associated flight activity constitutes an illegal taking of their property under the U.S. and Illinois constitutions, the city of Chicago has moved to transfer that lawsuit from Cook County to federal court.

On March 21, lawyers for the city filed notice in Chicago federal court that they were removing the case from Cook County Circuit Court, where it had been filed, saying U.S. District Court was the proper place to hear the Bensenville residents’ claims.

The removal notice came about a month after the Bensenville residents had filed an amended complaint in Cook County court on Feb. 23. That amended claim had, in turn, come about two months after a Cook County judge had dismissed the residents’ complaint in mid-December, allowing 60 days for the residents to revise their lawsuit and file a new complaint.

The residents’ new complaint, docketed in Cook County Circuit Court as Case No. 2015-L-09955 Jack Riser, et. al., vs City of Chicago, contained many of the same assertions and allegations as the initial version, filed in October 2015.

In the complaints, the residents alleged the city lied to them by assuring them that the new $1.3 billion runway, opened in October 2013, wouldn’t significantly impact their lives or their property.

“The City also repeatedly assured the Residents that the volume of air traffic would not be significant, and that it would not be disruptive,” the complaints said.

Instead, the exact opposite has been true, the residents alleged. They said “hundreds of large, loud commercial aircraft now use the Runway on a daily basis,” passing relatively close to the tops of the homes of the residents who had lived in Bensenville relatively close to O’Hare for decades without experiencing the kind of disruption they asserted they now endure on a daily basis.

“The cumulative impact to date that the City’ [sic] use of the Runway has had upon the Residents is virtually impossible to adequately describe in words,” the complaint said. “In short, and without exaggeration, it has wreaked havoc upon their daily lives and their prior enjoyment of their properties.”

This, in turn, has amounted to an unconstitutional taking of the Bensenville residents’ homes and property, “as the City has dramatically and negatively forever altered the lives of the residents, and has caused their homes to plummet in value and to be undesirable, unusable, and unsafe,” the complaint said.

They complained the “vortex effect” from the constant stream of large aircraft has stripped tree tops of leaves, vibration from the aircraft passing overhead have cracked walls, ceilings and driveways, and the aircraft have left “oily residue” on their properties, while making it all but impossible for the residents or their children to enjoy their yards, play outside or spend any significant time outdoors in their neighborhood.

Plaintiffs have also asserted the noise from the aircraft have harmed their health, with some alleging the runway noise has caused them to suffer sleep deprivation, lose hearing, suffer repeated nose bleeds and allergic reactions, and remain in constant states of stress and anxiety.

The amended version of the lawsuit also expanded to include 85 plaintiffs, 12 more than the original October version.

The amended complaint included counts against the city of inverse condemnation under the U.S. and Illinois constitutions and unjust enrichment.

The plaintiffs are represented in the action by the law firm of LeonardMeyer LLP, of Chicago.

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