On appeal from the Hudson County Circuit Court.
For the appellants, Mark A. Sullivan.
For the respondent, Thomas J. Brogan and Frank J. Reardon.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
TRENCHARD, J. The municipality of Jersey City instituted condemnation proceedings to acquire a tract of land and premises belonging to Morris Meyer, Louis Meyer and Minnie Meyer, located at the intersection of Newark avenue and Railroad avenue in that city. The condemnation commission appointed by the justice of the Supreme Court awarded
the owners $50,000. The owners were dissatisfied and appealed to the Hudson County Circuit Court. The appeal was tried by the court and jury and the verdict was for the same amount as that fixed by the condemnation commissioners. This is the appeal of the owners from the judgment entered upon such verdict.
The trial judge instructed the jury that they were to find "what was the fair market value for this property as of February 9th, 1928, at the time when the condemnation proceedings were started," and no objection was made to such instruction.
The first and principal contention made on this appeal is that certain photographs of properties in the immediate neighborhood and surrounding the property taken by condemnation were illegally admitted in evidence. The photographs said to have been illegally admitted showed the character of the property as it existed on February 9th, 1928. And in view of the fact that the appellants seem to contend, and the evidence tends to show, that a considerable number of improvements to the various properties exhibited in the photographs were made since the photographs were taken, it seems to us that the admission of the photographs was well within the discretion of the trial court, and affords no cause for reversal.
While objection was made to the admission of the photo graphs when they were admitted, no reason was then given for such objection, nor did the trial judge then state his reason for his action. But regardless of that, we believe, for reasons we will now state, that the admission of the photographs does not call for a reversal.
Where an appeal is taken from an award of commissioners in a condemnation proceeding, the jury are required to make an inspection of the property and premises sought to be condemned. It is so provided in section 12 of the Eminent Domain act. Comp. Stat., p. 2186. See, also, Hinners v. Edgewater and Fort Lee Railroad Co., 75 N.J.L. 514. The record of the trial of the present case shows that on November 20th, 1928, "the jury viewed the locus in quo, and returned to the court room." Assuming, as the evidence tends to show,
that a number of changes in the characteristics of the surrounding properties had been made after the beginning of the condemnation proceeding, it seems proper that the jury should become aware of the difference in the character of the property at the time they inspected it and at the time the proceeding was instituted, for their obligation, like that of the commissioners, was to fix the value of the property in the condition in which it was on the date of filing the petition and order fixing the time and place for the condemnation proceeding. It would, of course, be helpful to the jury in the performance of their duty to know what the situation was at that time as well as what it was at the time of their personal inspection. Hinners v. Edgewater and Fort Lee Railroad Co., supra. We have held that "it is a matter largely in the discretion of the trial judge, as ...