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Poole v. Lake

JUNE 29, 1956.

JOHN POOLE, CROSS-DEFENDANT-APPELLEE,

v.

ANDERSON LAKE, COUNTERPLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, AND IDA THOMPSON, AND MARY LAKE, CROSS-PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the County Court of Cook county; the Hon. ROSS E. MILLETT, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded with directions.

JUDGE KILEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This is an appeal by defendant-counter-plaintiff and by cross-plaintiffs from an order dismissing the counter suits for want of jurisdiction by the County Court over personal injury actions.

The accident involved a collision between the automobiles of plaintiff and Anderson Lake near 53rd and Dearborn streets in Chicago. Ida Thompson and Mary Lake were riding in the automobile of Anderson Lake. Plaintiff sued for damages to property and the Lakes and Ida Thompson, referred to herein as counter-plaintiffs, sought damages for personal injuries. Plaintiff's motion to strike the counterpleadings was overruled, but his subsequent motion to vacate the overruling order and to dismiss was sustained and judgment entered against counter-plaintiffs.

The only question before us is the jurisdiction of the County Court in personal injury actions. The decision is one of first impression and requires a construction of the 1943 Amendment to Chapter 79, Paragraph 16, Illinois Revised Statutes, 1955.

"County courts are given certain jurisdiction by the constitution but all other jurisdiction must be conferred by statute, and if conferred by statute the jurisdiction is limited to such cases as are specified in the statute." (People v. McWeeney, 259 Ill. 161, 170.) The constitution does not give county courts jurisdiction in personal injury actions but provides that they shall have "such other jurisdiction as may be provided for by general law."

The legislature has provided: "The County Courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Courts in all that class of cases wherein justices of the peace now have or may hereafter have jurisdiction, where the amount claimed . . . shall not exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000), concurrent jurisdiction in all cases or appeals from justices of the peace . . ." (Chap. 37, Par. 177, Ill. Rev. Stat., 1955.)

The jurisdiction of justices of the peace is conferred by Par. 16, Chap. 79. Before 1943 this section provided: "1. Justices of the peace have jurisdiction in their respective counties in the following actions, when the amount claimed does not exceed five hundred dollars." There were set forth thirteen "actions," including, "Thirteenth — In garnishment by attachment . . ." This "Thirteenth" provision was amended in 1943 by the addition of the following: "For trespass or trespass on the case." It is this language about which the issues here revolve.

The parties agree that before 1943 county courts had no jurisdiction in personal injury cases (Schiller v. Nevius, 187 Ill. App. 485) because justices of the peace had none. (Western Union Tel. Co. v. Dubois, 128 Ill. 248; City of Robinson v. Hilderbrand, 71 Ill. App. 53.) At that time their jurisdiction in tort cases was limited to:

"Second — For damages for injury to personal property and real property, or for taking or detaining personal property.

". . .

"Fourth — Against railroad companies . . . for killing or injuring horses, cattle . . .; for loss of or injury to baggage or freight; and for injury or damage to real or personal property. . . .

"Sixth — For damages for fraud in the sale, purchase or exchange of personal property. . . .

"Eleventh — To assess damages for sheep killed by dogs."

[2-4] The parties are not in dispute upon the relevant rules of construction: The statute must be read as a whole; the amendment operates as if its subject-matter had been incorporated in the prior Act at the time of its adoption; and (Acme Fireworks Corp. v. Bibb, 6 Ill.2d 112, 117) the amendment must be considered purposeful ...


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