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Pleasure Driveway & Park Dist. v. Kurek

MARCH 27, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. ROBERT A. CONEY, Judge, presiding.


The Peoria Park District (plaintiff) brought a forcible entry and detainer action against five golf professionals (defendants) for possession of the golf concession shops at the five public golf courses owned by plaintiff. Defendants filed an amended answer, affirmative defense and counterclaim. Following a 3-week jury trial, a verdict and judgment were entered on April 23, 1974, in favor of defendants. Plaintiff's post-trial motion was denied, and on May 6, 1974, a judgment order was entered which gave defendants' possession of the premises and granted additional injunctive relief to defendants to enforce their employment and concession contracts. Plaintiff appeals from the judgment orders entered on April 23 and May 6, and from the order denying their post-trial motion.

The dispute which gave rise to this litigation originated in negotiations for concession agreements for the year 1973 between the Peoria Park District and the golf pros who operate the pro shops and who were employed as greenskeepers at the five golf courses owned by the Park District. It is not disputed that since 1959 the concession agreements had provided for a 1-year term ending December 31 of each year with a fixed fee or rent paid to the park district. *fn1

During 1972 the Park Board proposed that the rental fee for 1973 be changed to 1 1/2% of gross receipts. After prolonged discussions failed to produce an agreement, the golf pros retained an attorney in July of 1973 and authorized him to negotiate contracts in their behalf.

During further negotiations the Park Board refused to accept a rental fee of 5% of net income, but finally, on September 12, 1973, offered to accept 1 1/2% of gross receipts for 1973 and 1974 on the condition that the contracts were signed and returned by September 20. Later the deadline was extended to 4:30 P.M. October 2. The golf pros signed contracts on October 1, 1973, with four of the contracts providing for a term from January 1, 1973, to December 31, 1974, and gave the contracts to their attorney who did not deliver them. *fn2 On October 3, notices of termination of the concession contracts effective December 31, 1973, were given to four of the golf pros. At an October 10 meeting, the Park Board voted to refuse the 2-year contracts and to accept 1-year contracts at 1 1/2% of gross receipts, provided the signed contracts were delivered the next day. On October 11 the attorney for the golf pros approved the change in the termination date to December 31, 1973, in the four contracts in his possession and delivered them to the Park Board. The agreements were signed on behalf of the Park Board the same day.

In November of 1973 negotiations commenced between the Park Board and the golf pros for the 1974 contracts, and the Park Board also prepared bid specifications for concession rights for 1974. Having failed to reach agreement with the defendants, the Park Board on January 19, 1974, awarded a 3-year contract for concession rights to Golf Shop Management, Inc. (GSM), with the stated intention of continuing defendants' employment as greenskeepers. On January 21, 1974, each of the five golf pros were served with a 30-day notice to terminate tenancy of the premises occupied by the concession shops, and on February 20, 1974, the Park District filed its complaint in this cause to recover possession of the five golf pro shops at its golf courses. *fn3 On the same date the Park Board terminated the employment of the golf pros as greenskeepers.

The record of the proceedings in the circuit court is replete with motions, orders and pleadings, and no useful purpose would be served by attempting to summarize all of the various pretrial procedures and rulings in this case. Included among the rulings of the circuit court were a denial of plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, dismissal of defendants' third-party complaint against GSM, severance of defendants' original counterclaim for purposes of trial, and denial of plaintiff's motion to dismiss defendants' amended affirmative defenses and counterclaim. *fn4

The complaint sought to recover possession of the pro shops on the ground that the leases expired December 31, 1973. The defendants in their answer denied the expiration date and also denied that the concession agreements were the sole basis of possession, and, in their counterclaim, asserted that their employment as greenskeepers was so interrelated with the concession agreements as to form one contract; that the discharge of defendants from their employment on February 20, 1974, amounted to forcible entry upon defendants' possessory rights; and that erecting tents on the five golf courses trespassed on defendants' possessory rights (apparently the plaintiff erected tents for use by GSM for selling admissions and renting golf carts during 1974). Defendants' counterclaim also alleged that certain other acts of plaintiff, such as issuing press releases, constituted forcible entry, but such assertions were so obviously frivolous that we will not consider them here.

The cause proceeded to trial before a jury which returned a verdict for defendants on both the complaint and counterclaim and also returned the following answers to special interrogatories:

"Do you find that the Plaintiff entered upon defendants' premises with force and thereby interfered with their rights of possession? Answer . . . Yes.

Do you find that the Plaintiff and Defendants entered into an agreement which expired or terminated December 31, 1973? Answer . . . No."

Plaintiff's post-trial motion was denied, and on May 6, 1974, the court entered an order which granted defendants possession of the golf pro shops, enjoined plaintiff from interfering with operation of the golf courses, restored defendants to their employment as greenskeepers, granted defendants exclusive operation of the pro shops and golf courses, enjoined plaintiff from spending any funds for pro shop or golf course concessions other than for or on behalf of defendants, and ordered plaintiff to pay defendants' wages and other benefits from and after February 20, 1974, in the amounts appropriated for 1974.

On appeal plaintiff's chief contentions are (1) that the trial court erred in denying its motion for summary judgment and its motions for directed verdict and for judgment n.o.v.; (2) that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to grant injunctive and mandatory relief in its May 6 order; (3) that plaintiff was deprived of a fair trial because of improper conduct of defense counsel and the court's erroneous rulings on evidence and instructions.

Although the parties have asserted numerous issues in this appeal, we believe the determinative question is whether defendants' employment as greenskeepers was such an integral part of the concession agreements that it could be introduced to ...

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