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Byron Chamber of Commerce, Inc. v. Long

OPINION FILED JANUARY 20, 1981.

BYRON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

JOSEPH LONG ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. ROBERT C. GILL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE UNVERZAGT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from the order of the circuit court of Winnebago County dismissing with prejudice count I of the plaintiffs' complaint against the defendant law firm.

Count I is in the nature of a class action suit and arises out of the following circumstances. In June 1977, Byron Chamber of Commerce, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, employed the defendant law firm of Barrick, Jackson, Switzer, Long and Balsley to perform the necessary legal work in creating the Byron Park District, with specific instructions to the defendant Long that the park district was to include and encompass the Byron Nuclear Plant, which was located on property which is part of Byron School District Unit 226. It was explained that it was the intent and understanding of the Byron Chamber of Commerce that the nuclear plant would be located within the park district, and the complaint alleges with that purpose in mind, Joseph Long, of the defendant law firm, was specifically instructed to use the same legal description for the Byron Park District as constituted the Byron School District Unit 226.

The defendant, in preparing the petition for the formation of the park district, erroneously used a legal description which encompassed the territory of an already existing park district, the Oregon Park District (see In re Organization of Byron Park District (1978), 67 Ill. App.3d 61) with the result that the petition of the Byron Park District was held invalid by the circuit court. Before a new petition with the correct legal description could be presented on behalf of the Byron Park District, Oregon Park District forestalled Byron by submitting its own petition for inclusion in its park district of the territory encompassing the Byron Nuclear Plant, thus depriving the proposed Byron Park District of the revenue which would have accrued to it from the Byron Nuclear Plant.

The Byron Chamber of Commerce then brought its action against the defendant law firm in two counts, count I being a class action in the name of Chester Kobel, a taxpayer and resident within the limits of the Byron School District, as representative of the "residents, taxpayers, property owners and legal voters within the proposed Byron Park District, excepting those residents, taxpayers, property owners and legal voters who were situated within the proposed Byron Park District and who as hereinafter set forth are now situated within the Oregon Park District." Count II of the complaint is for reimbursement of the legal fees paid by the Byron Chamber of Commerce to the defendant law firm for legal work in connection with the formation of the proposed Byron Park District.

The trial court dismissed count I — the class action count — as not conforming to the requirements of a class action suit. In rendering judgment, the court said the complaint "does not set forth adequate pleadings that meet the criterion for class action."

Section 57.2 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 57.2), which sets forth the criteria for maintaining a class action suit in this State, reads as follows:

"Prerequisites for the maintenance of a class action.

(a) An action may be maintained as a class action in any court of this State and a party may sue or be sued as a representative party of the class only if the court finds:

(1) The class is so numerous that joinder of all parties is impracticable.

(2) There are questions of fact or law common to the class, which common questions predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.

(3) The representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interest of the class.

(4) The class action is an appropriate method for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy."

The trial court found the complaint adequate as to requisites (1) and (2) set forth above, but said there was "a failure to show that the representative party will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class" and a failure to show that "the class action is an appropriate method for fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." The court was also of the opinion that the ...


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