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Cranwill v. Donahue





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. JOHN A. GORMAN, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff Jack Cranwill filed a four-count complaint alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, and abuse of or abusive process on the part of defendants James R. Donahue and Patrick J. Landrith. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint and the circuit court of Tazewell County granted their motion, holding that the statute of limitations had run and that a prior judgment barred the action.

A history of this litigation is necessary for an understanding of the issues presented for review. On October 15, 1976, plaintiff filed a three-count complaint in United States District Court. Counts I and II of that complaint charged defendants with violations of the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1981 et seq. (1976)). Count III of the complaint was a pendent State claim based on the intentional and quasi-intentional torts alleged above. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint and the court entered the following docket order:

"Parties present by/c for hearing on Deft's mo. to dismiss. Arguments of counsel heard. Ordered that said motion is allowed for lack of jurisdiction. Case dismissed with prejudice. (Morgan J.)" (Emphasis added.) Cranwill v. Donahue, No. P-Civ-76-111 (S.D. Ill., filed Dec. 17, 1976).

Plaintiff appealed the dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals. Admitting that count II, brought under section 1985(3) of the Act (42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (1976)), alleged no racial or otherwise class-based invidiously discriminatory animus, plaintiff abandoned that claim. The court then addressed the merits of count I, based on section 1983 of the Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976)), stating, inter alia:

"In order to state a cognizable claim under Section 1983, it is necessary that the complaint allege that the defendants either actually intended to deprive the plaintiff of his constitutional rights or recklessly disregarded them. Kimbrough v. O'Neal, 545 F.2d 1059 (7th Cir. 1976) (en banc).

Plaintiff admitted at oral argument that neither intent nor reckless disregard on the part of the defendants was alleged in the complaint, and he even stated in his brief that `intent to violate a civil right of the Plaintiff is not required' (Br.7). But under Kimbrough, supra, and Bonner v. Coughlin, 545 F.2d 565 (7th Cir. 1976) (en banc), intent or reckless disregard is required in this Circuit." (Cranwill v. Donahue, No. 77-1122, slip op. at 2-3 (7th Cir., filed Aug. 3, 1977).)

The court then went on to discuss the possibility of probable cause for the allegedly unlawful arrest and detention which formed the basis of plaintiff's complaint and concluded its decision with a one-paragraph discussion of count III of the complaint:

"Because the first two counts fail to state a claim upon which federal jurisdiction may be founded, the pendent state claim in Count III also fails for lack of jurisdiction. The dismissal order of the district court is affirmed." (Emphasis added.) Cranwill v. Donahue, No. 77-1122, slip op. at 4 (7th Cir., filed Aug. 3, 1977.)

Plaintiff then filed the instant action. In response to defendants' motion to dismiss, the trial court held, inter alia:

"(1) That Section 24a of Chapter 23 [sic], Illinois Revised Statutes did not operate to toll any statute of limitations as there was neither a voluntary dismissal or any action dismissed for want of prosecution in the prior federal suit.

(2) That the action of the federal court constitutes a decision on the merits regarding the statutory presumption, breathalyzer test and probable cause for arrest which are the nexus of every action alleged by plaintiff."

Presented for our review are the two issues framed by the court's order. First, whether there has been a decision on the merits barring plaintiff's claim on res judicata grounds; and second, whether the action is permissible under section 24 of "An Act in regard to limitations" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 83, par. 24(a)).

Turning to the first issue of whether plaintiff's action is barred under res judicata principles, we note that res judicata and collateral estoppel are judicial doctrines designed to protect litigants from the burden of retrying an identical cause of action or issue with the same party or privy, and to enhance judicial economy by prohibiting repetitive litigation. (People v. Bone (1980), 82 Ill.2d 282, 412 N.E.2d 444.) Res judicata concludes all matters which were or might have been determined (Hughey v. Industrial Com. (1979), 76 Ill.2d 577, 394 N.E.2d 1164) and requires identity of parties, subject matter, and cause of action (Ray Schools-Chicago-Inc. v. Cummins (1957), 12 Ill.2d 376, 146 N.E.2d 42). Collateral estoppel concludes only those matters in issue or points ...

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