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People Ex Rel. Callahan v. Marshall Field & Co.

OPINION FILED APRIL 11, 1980.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. EDGAR CALLAHAN, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

MARSHALL FIELD & COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Marshall Field & Company (Field) appeals from the granting of summary judgment in a declaratory judgment action brought by the Director of the Department of Financial Institutions (Director). On appeal, Field contends that the Illinois Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 101 et seq.) did not apply in general to unclaimed intangible personal property held by business associations prior to 1975. Field also contends that even if the Act did apply to such property, a failure of certain conditions precedent bars the State from taking custody of the monetary value represented by certain unclaimed gift certificates and credit memoranda.

The following facts are pertinent to a disposition of this appeal.

The Illinois Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 101 et seq.) provides generally that certain described property be presumed abandoned by its owner. The holder of such presumably abandoned property must file a report each year with the Director describing the particular property and stating the name and last known address of the owner of said property. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 111.) Within 120 days from the filing of the report required under section 11 (par. 111), the Director must publish in newspapers of general circulation a notice listing persons appearing to be owners of abandoned property and stating that any property not duly claimed from the holder thereof will subsequently be placed in the custody of the Director. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 112.) Any presumably abandoned property not duly claimed from the holder by the owner after publication must be placed in the custody of the Director. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 113.) After properly recording the name and address of the owner and the amount due, the Director must transfer the abandoned property to the State Treasurer for deposit in the State Pensions Fund. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 118.) Section 18 (par. 118) further provides, however, that the Director shall retain a fund not exceeding $250,000 for prompt payment of claims made upon the Director by owners of the abandoned property. Any person claiming an interest in property delivered to the Director under the Act may file a claim thereto and no time limitation is placed upon filing of such claim. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 119.

The Director commenced the instant action by seeking a declaratory judgment that the Act as originally enacted in 1961 applied to all unclaimed intangible personal property held by business associations. Specifically, the Director sought a determination that the 1961 Act was applicable to unredeemed gift certificates and credit memoranda issued by Field in the regular course of business and to wages unclaimed by Field's employees. Field answered, denying that the Act applied generally to business associations prior to its amendment in 1975. Field also argued that unfulfilled conditions precedent in the gift certificates and credit memoranda prevented the State from taking custody of those items.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Director, and Field now appeals from that judgment.

I.

Field first contends that the Illinois Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 101 et seq.) did not apply generally to unclaimed intangible personal property held by business associations prior to the adoption of section 2a (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 102a) in 1975.

As originally enacted in 1961 the Act covered certain unclaimed property held by banking or financial institutions (par. 102), life insurance companies (par. 103), utilities (par. 104), and courts> or public officers (par. 108). The Act was also applicable to all intangible personal property held during a voluntary dissolution (par. 106) or by anyone acting in a fiduciary capacity (par. 107).

Section 9 of the Act, the "catch-all" provision, encompassed additional property as follows:

"All intangible personal property, not otherwise covered by this Act, including any income or increment thereon and deducting any lawful charges, that is held or owing in this State in the ordinary course of the holder's business and has remained unclaimed by the owner for more than 7 years after it became payable or distributable is presumed abandoned." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 141, par. 109.

Field argues that in order to trigger application of section 9 it is necessary that the holder be one of those specifically mentioned in sections 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 or 8. It is Field's position that section 9 does not apply to unclaimed intangible personal property held by any other entity in the ordinary course of business. We disagree.

• 1-3 The cardinal rule governing statutory construction is that we must give effect to the intention of the legislature as expressed in the statute. (Young v. Mikva (1977), 66 Ill.2d 579, 363 N.E.2d 851; Mallin v. Najarian (1979), 76 Ill. App.3d 441, 395 N.E.2d 172.) The intention of the legislature should be sought primarily from the language employed. (Certain Taxpayers v. Sheahen (1970), 45 Ill.2d 75, 256 N.E.2d 758.) Where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, our only function is to enforce the law as enacted by the legislature. (Harvey Firemen's Association v. City of Harvey (1979), 75 Ill.2d 358, 389 N.E.2d 151.) Moreover, we are not authorized to depart from the plain language of a statute by reading in exceptions, limitations or conditions which conflict with the clearly expressed legislative intent. Certain Taxpayers v. Sheahen.

• 4 We believe the language of section 9 is clear, unambiguous and susceptible to only one logical interpretation. In order to be covered by this section the property must be: (1) intangible personal property; (2) not otherwise covered by the Act; (3) held or owing in this State in the ordinary course of the holder's business; and (4) unclaimed by the owner for a specified period. The legislature did not indicate that only holders of subject property under other sections of the Act would be covered by section 9. The section refers to property held in the holder's ordinary course of business. We take ...


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