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Drabik v. Lawn Manor Sav. & Loan Ass'n

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 28, 1978.

MARY LYNN DRABIK, ADM'R DE BONIS NON WITH THE WILL ANNEXED OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM F. RICHARDS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

LAWN MANOR SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN J. KELLY, JR., Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE JOHNSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This action was brought in the municipal department of the circuit court of Cook County against the Lawn Manor Savings and Loan Association (hereinafter Lawn Manor) for allegedly wrongfully transferring funds from one savings account to another. The plaintiff's complaint was dismissed with prejudice.

On June 28, 1974, and for many years prior thereto, William F. Richards, James Grigaitis, and Margaret Grigaitis were joint tenants with rights of survivorship of savings account No. 22839 at Lawn Manor, defendant-appellee. On June 28, 1974, the funds in the account, $13,800.49, were withdrawn and redeposited at defendant bank in account No. 28572 in the names of James Grigaitis, Joana Pautienius, and Juozas Bacevicius.

James Grigaitis died July 1, 1974. On July 18, 1974, defendant deposited the funds of account No. 28572 with the Grigaitis administrator to collect, Henry Drabik, pursuant to letters of administration issued by the probate division of the circuit court. William Richards died September 1, 1974.

On October 11, 1974, Joana Pautienius filed a petition in the Grigaitis probate proceedings requesting that the probate division order the administrator to collect to pay the funds in question to her as surviving joint tenant of the account.

On December 9, 1974, Dorothy Richards, executor of the estate of William Richards, filed a petition to intervene in the Pautienius action. The petition alleged that the funds had been unlawfully removed from account No. 22839 and deposited into account No. 28572, pursuant to a forged withdrawal slip and without the knowledge of either William Richards or James Grigaitis. The petition further alleged that the funds are rightfully an asset of the estate of William Richards and are claimed on behalf of the estate.

A hearing was held on the petitions and, on January 14, 1975, the probate division entered an order declaring Joana Pautienius the sole owner of the funds on deposit in the Lawn Manor savings account No. 28572 on July 1, 1974. Juozas Bacevicius was found to be a party to the account solely for convenience. The court denied the petition filed by Dorothy Richards and found that the Richards' estate had no right to the funds.

On August 29, 1975, the plaintiff-appellant, Mary Lynn Drabik, administrator of the estate of William Richards, filed a complaint in the municipal department alleging that defendant breached its written contract with William Richards when it negligently and carelessly allowed the withdrawal of the funds from account No. 22839, pursuant to a forged signature.

According to an affidavit filed with the municipal department, the probate division stated that whether the funds were transferred from account No. 22839 to account No. 28572 as a result of a forged endorsement was irrelevant to the sole issue to be decided, viz, was it the intention of James Grigaitis that the funds of account No. 28572 vest on his death to Joana Pautienius. The affidavit states that the court refused to hear evidence on the issue of whether the funds in account No. 28572 were funds transferred from account No. 22839, pursuant to an illegal withdrawal.

The issues to be decided are (1) whether interpleader will lie to relieve defendant of its accountability for the funds and (2) whether the first litigation concerning the funds is res judicata to the present suit.

Defendant contends that by depositing the funds with the administrator to collect, who was cloaked with the authority of the probate division, it in essence interpleaded the funds by submitting them to the jurisdiction of the court.

Plaintiff argues that the interpleader defense is without merit because defendant was not a party to the suit and did not submit itself to the jurisdiction of the probate division.

An interpleader action is appropriate where several persons have claims to the same subject matter and such claims may result in multiple liability. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 26.2.) In Chicago Title & Trust Co. v. Czubak (1976), 42 Ill. App.3d 349, 352, 356 N.E.2d 118, 120, we held that when there are conflicting claims to a deposited fund the stakeholder should place the money before the court to avoid acting at his own peril. In Lincoln Trust & Savings Bank v. Nelson (1931), 261 Ill. App. 370, 373, the appellate court held that the bank was entitled to file a complaint of interpleader where the ownership of the funds on deposit was in dispute.

• 1 It is undisputed that defendant deposited the funds with the administrator to collect, pursuant to letters of administration issued by the probate division. Since the funds were on deposit, it was unnecessary for defendant to submit itself to the court's jurisdiction by filing a formal complaint of interpleader. In any event, in situations where it is doubtful whether interpleader will lie, the doubt should be resolved in favor of ...


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