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Harlem-irving Realty, Inc. v. Alesi

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 3, 1981.

HARLEM-IRVING REALTY, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

ROSS ALESI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH M. WOSIK, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Ross Alesi, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County granting summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, Harlem-Irving Realty, Inc., and Plaza Promotions, Inc. The proceeding was initiated by plaintiffs, who had sponsored a promotional contest. Plaintiffs sought to recover from defendant, the claimed winner of the contest, the grand prize of a Cadillac automobile.

On appeal, defendant contends: (1) summary judgment was improperly granted because a material issue of fact exists by virtue of an ambiguity in the contest rules and thus a trial on the merits is required; and (2) the trial court erroneously granted a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against defendant's use of the prize.

We affirm. The pertinent facts follow.

Harlem-Irving Realty, Inc. (Realty), is a business tenant of the shopping center known as Harlem-Irving Plaza, Inc. (Plaza), "a group of stores and other enterprises." The business tenants of the Plaza are members of Plaza Promotions Inc., "a corporation which coordinates and promotes various Plaza activities." In connection with expansion of the Plaza, a "Grand Opening" promotion, a prize drawing contest, was held. The Realty had purchased a 1980 Cadillac Coupe De Ville to be offered as the major prize. The prize contest consisted of a raffle in which eligible contestants were required to complete entry blanks obtained from participating stores in the Plaza. The completed entry blanks were deposited in a central depository. No purchase was necessary for entry and participation in the contest.

The contest rules were posted within the common areas of the Plaza and also were advertised in the Lerner Times community newspaper. The rules poster indicated that Plaza employees and their "immediate families" were not eligible to enter the contest. The advertisement in the Lerner Times indicated that Plaza employees and their "families" were not eligible to participate in the contest.

During the raffle drawing, one of a number of completed contest ballots submitted by defendant was drawn as the winner of the automobile. Prior to receiving the grand prize, defendant was required to sign an affidavit stating he was not "an employee of/or related to Harlem-Iving Plaza Realty Inc. [sic] * * * or any tenant in the Harlem-Irving Shopping Center * * * or employees of any such tenant. * * *." Defendant signed the affidavit and received the Cadillac car.

Shortly thereafter, plaintiffs discovered that defendant was the father of an employee of a business tenant in the Plaza and the grandfather of a part-time employee of another Plaza business tenant. Defendant did not reside within the household of either of his relatives, the employees of the Plaza business tenants. Plaintiffs sought the return of the automobile, contending the defendant was not eligible to participate in the contest. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed their complaint seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against defendant's use of the automobile, and also seeking recovery of the prize, and $10,000 in punitive damages.

The trial court subsequently issued an order temporarily restraining defendant from "using or jeopardizing the value" of the Cadillac automobile. The order was conditioned upon plaintiffs' posting a $12,857 bond. The order also set a date for a hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and provided that the order and plaintiffs' complaint be "immediately" served upon the defendant. At the subsequent hearing, the parties agreed to a continuation of the temporary restraining order, and defendant agreed to return the automobile without prejudice to the rights of any of the parties.

Shortly thereafter, defendant filed his answer to the complaint, denying that he was a member of the "immediate family" of a person who was employed by the Plaza at the time of the drawing and asserting that he was eligible to enter the contest and be selected as the winner of the Cadillac automobile. The answer made no reference as to defendant being a member of the "family" of an employee of the Plaza. Plaintiffs then moved for summary judgment, contending that, as a matter of law, plaintiffs were entitled to recovery of the automobile because the unambiguous contest rules rendered defendant ineligible to participate in the contest. The trial court granted the motion. This appeal followed.

The parties agree that summary judgment shall be rendered only if the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits on file show that no genuine issue of material fact exists. If that is so, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 57(3); Hedrick v. Goodwin Brothers, Inc. (1975), 26 Ill. App.3d 327, 325 N.E.2d 73.) Further, summary judgment is properly granted when the record presents purely questions of law. Baird & Warner, Inc. v. Stuparits (1977), 53 Ill. App.3d 338, 368 N.E.2d 748.

Defendant asserts that summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs was improperly entered since a question of material fact has been raised. Defendant contends that the contest rules as set forth in the Plaza posters and in the Lerner newspaper advertisements are ambiguous in that the posters preclude Plaza employees and their "immediate families" from contest participation, and the advertisements preclude Plaza employees and their "families" from contest participation. Defendant claims that a material issue of fact is raised in that an evidentiary hearing is required to determine if the intent of the contest sponsors was to exclude participants in the class of Plaza employees and their "immediate families" or Plaza employees and their "families" or both. Defendant alleges that proof will disclose that the bar was to extend only to Plaza employees and their "immediate families" and that he is not a member of a Plaza employee's "immediate family" since he does not reside with either his daughter or his grandson — thus, defendant contends he would be eligible for contest participation. We disagree with defendant's assertions to the effect that an issue of material fact exists.

The law of contracts governs the relationship between the sponsor of a prize contest and an entrant in the contest. The promoter of such a contest, by making public the conditions and rules of the contest, makes an offer to a possible participant and if a contestant performs all of the requirements of the offer, in accordance with the published rules, a legally binding contract results. Grove v. Charbonneau Buick-Pontiac, Inc. (N.D. 1976), 240 N.W.2d 853.

The requirements of the offer in the instant case were published in the posters displayed within the Plaza's common areas and the advertisements contained in the Lerner community newspapers. These documents, the posters and the advertisements, were part of one transaction and therefore must be interpreted together to give effect to the intention of the parties as to the binding rules for contest participation. *fn1 See Steven v. Falese Land Co. (1977), ...


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