Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County,
the Hon. Donald J. O'Brien, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SIMON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied January 29, 1982.
The Attorney General filed a two-count civil complaint in the circuit court of Cook County on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois under the Illinois Antitrust Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 60-7(4)). The complaint alleged that the defendants had entered into a conspiracy to fix the greens fees and golf-cart-rental prices at various golf courses the defendants operated, in violation of section 3(1)(a) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 60-3(1)(a)). While some defendants answered the complaint, denying its allegations, others moved to dismiss the complaints for failure to state a cause of action. The circuit court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend within 60 days pursuant to sections 45 and 48 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, pars. 45, 48). The Attorney General, instead of amending the complaint, asked this court for leave to file a petition for writ of mandamus or for a supervisory order. When that motion was denied, the Attorney General returned to the circuit court and sought leave to file an amended complaint instanter, but leave was denied. The cause was later dismissed. The appellate court affirmed (88 Ill. App.3d 297), and this court granted leave to appeal under Rule 315 (73 Ill.2d R. 315).
The complaint at issue, after reciting the jurisdiction of the court and the proper venue, defined its terms and named the defendants, who are operators of golf courses in the Chicago area open to the public upon the payment of a fee, known in the trade as a "greens fee." The complaint charged that, except for the illegal activity, all the defendants would have been competitors for the over five million people who had paid greens fees to them in the time covered by the complaint. Also named as a defendant was the Chicagoland Golf Association, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation which claimed all the defendants as members. The association was charged with holding periodic meetings and circulating the minutes of those meetings to all members of the association.
The substance of count I of the complaint was that from November 1970 to and through 1975 the defendants conspired to fix prices. It alleged:
"19. Defendants and co-conspirators have entered into an agreement, understanding, and concert of action the substantial terms of which were to fix, control and maintain the rate of greens fees charged to the general public.
20. That in furtherance of the aforesaid unlawful combination and conspiracy, the defendants and co-conspirators employed the following means and methods, among others:
A. Beginning at least as early as October 1970, and from time to time thereafter, (the exact times being unknown to the plaintiff) the defendants and co-conspirators met at various locations in Cook County and discussed and agreed upon the rate of greens fees to be charged to the general public;
B. On or before March 26, 1974, the exact date being unknown to plaintiff, defendants and co-conspirators agreed to fix a date when reduced winter rates would be discontinued and summer rates would be imposed;
C. Defendants and co-conspirators not in attendance at the aforementioned meetings were informed of the discussions and agreements reached at these meetings by receiving printed minutes prepared by the Secretary of the Association."
A similarly worded count II charged the fixing of golf-cart-rental prices. The claimed effect of each agreement was the suppression of competition. The complaint sought injunctive relief and the maximum penalty of $50,000 against each of the defendants.
The purpose of pleadings is to present, define and narrow the issues and limit the proof needed at trial. Pleadings are not intended to erect barriers to a trial on the merits but instead to remove them and facilitate trial. The object of pleadings is to produce an issue asserted by one side and denied by the other so that a trial may determine the actual truth. (Fleshner v. Copeland (1958), 13 Ill.2d 72, 77; Warnes v. Champaign County Seed Co. (1955), 5 Ill. App.2d 151, 156; McKinney v. Nathan (1954), 1 Ill. App.2d 536, 545.) Perhaps the best measure of a complaint's sufficiency, then, is whether the defendant is able to answer the essential allegations. Most of the defendants were able to do so here, but because some moved instead to dismiss the complaint, further analysis is necessary.
Illinois is a fact-pleading State. This means that although pleadings are to be liberally construed and formal or technical allegations are not necessary, a complaint must, nevertheless, contain facts to state a cause of action. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 31.) Which facts? The complaint is deficient when it fails to allege the facts necessary for the plaintiff to recover. (Fanning v. LeMay (1967), 38 Ill.2d 209, 212.) "But it is a rule of pleading long established, that a pleader is not required to set out his evidence. To the contrary, only the ultimate facts to be proved should be alleged and not the ...