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Atlas v. 7101 Partnership

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 15, 1982.

MARSHALL M. ATLAS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

7101 PARTNERSHIP ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS. — (ROBERT A. HOLSTEIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George Schaller, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE WHITE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendants 7101 Partnership and certain individual defendants appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County granting motions to compel arbitration filed by plaintiff, Marshall Atlas, and defendant Robert Holstein and from an order denying their motion to reconsider that order. The issues presented are: (1) whether Atlas waived his right to arbitrate by submitting arbitrable issues to a court for consideration; (2) whether Holstein has the right to compel plaintiff and the other defendants to arbitrate plaintiff's claim; and (3) whether section 9(3)(e) of the Illinois Uniform Partnership Act (Ill. Rev Stat. 1981, ch. 106 1/2, par. 9(3)(e)) precludes arbitration in this case.

Plaintiff's amended complaint for injunctive and other relief names as defendants Vernon Schultz, Timothy Hartnett, Robert Holstein, Thomas Danis, Darryl Fohrman, Paul Lurie, Michael Sklar, and 7101 Partnership, an Illinois general partnership. The first count alleges that plaintiff is a real estate broker and was one of the partners in defendant 7101 Partnership; that on June 10, 1975, plaintiff and all of the individual defendants except Schultz formed the partnership for the purpose of acquiring, developing, and managing an office building located at 7101 North Cicero Avenue, Lincolnwood, Illinois; that on September 2, 1980, the partnership entered into a contract to sell the property, its sole asset, for $1,060,000; that section 5.01(b)(ii) of the partnership agreement provides:

"* * * Marshall M. Atlas and Morris S. Rothberg, jointly, shall only receive the following compensation * * *:

(b) as real estate brokerage commission:

(ii) Due upon sale of real estate owned by the Partnership, the sum of 5% of sales price. * * *";

that Rothberg has assigned to plaintiff all of his interest in the broker's commission; that plaintiff was the sole procuring broker for the sale of the property, and no other broker is entitled to a commission with respect thereto; that after the real estate contract was entered into, plaintiff was advised by the partnership that it would not pay him a commission for procuring the sale, but that it intended to pay Schultz and Hartnett a commission in the amount of five percent of the selling price; that in October 1980, the sale was closed and the partnership made a part payment of the five percent commission to Schultz and Hartnett; that the partnership is prepared to pay the balance of the commission to Schultz and Hartnett; that if the contemplated commission is paid to Schultz and Hartnett, such payment would be in violation of the partnership agreement; and that unless the partnership is enjoined from paying the commission to Schultz and Hartnett, plaintiff will be irreparably injured and without an adequate remedy at law. Count two realleges many of the allegations of the first count and further alleges that if the contemplated commission is paid to Schultz and Hartnett, such payment would be in violation of plaintiff's entitlement to the commission as the sole procuring broker. The third count realleges the allegations of the first count, and further alleges a conspiracy by Schultz and Hartnett to deprive plaintiff of the brokers' commission due him under the partnership agreement. It is alleged that as a result of their wrongful actions, the partnership has refused to pay plaintiff the commission due him in breach of the partners' fiduciary obligations to plaintiff. The prayers for relief in each count sought an order preliminarily and permanently enjoining the partnership from paying to Schultz and Hartnett a real estate broker's commission for the sale; requiring the partnership to set aside and hold from the proceeds received from the sale an amount equal to five percent of the selling price; declaring that plaintiff is the broker and the sole party entitled to a commission regarding the sale; awarding plaintiff judgment against defendants for $53,000, plus costs, interest and attorney fees, and other just relief. The prayer in the third count also sought $150,000 in punitive damages from defendants Hartnett and Schultz.

Earlier, on November 17, 1980, plaintiff had filed a complaint for injunctive and other relief, the allegations and prayers for relief of which were similar to the allegations and prayers for relief in the amended complaint summarized above. Defendant Schultz filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint, and shortly thereafter, plaintiff presented a motion for a preliminary injunction. The trial court entered an order denying plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and granting plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff then filed his amended complaint.

Subsequently defendant Holstein entered his appearance and filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the partnership agreement, and plaintiff filed another motion for a preliminary injunction which the trial court also denied.

Following this, plaintiff moved the court for an order compelling arbitration. This motion referred to paragraph 9.02 of the partnership agreement, which provides:

"If any controversy or claim arising out of this Partnership Agreement cannot be settled by the Partners, the controversy or claim shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association then in effect, and judgment on the award may be entered in any court having jurisdiction."

The court granted the motions of plaintiff and defendant Holstein to compel arbitration, ordered the parties to arbitrate the dispute and stayed the action pending resolution of the arbitration proceedings. This order specifically stated that there was no just reason to delay the enforcement or appeal from the order. On April 22, 1981, a motion to reconsider was denied and as noted at the outset, it is from these orders that defendants 7101 Partnership, Schultz, Fohrman, Lurie and Sklar appeal.

Appellants contend that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion to compel arbitration because plaintiff waived his right to arbitrate by submitting arbitrable issues to that court. We first examine this contention.

In Illinois, arbitration is a favored method of resolving disputes. (Brennan v. Kenwick (1981), 97 Ill. App.3d 1040, 1042, 425 N.E.2d 439.) Since arbitration is an efficient, relatively inexpensive method of settling disputes, a waiver of a right to arbitrate is not to be lightly inferred. (Brennan v. Kenwick (1981), 97 Ill. App.3d 1040, 1043.) But the law is well settled that "a contractual right to arbitration may be waived by a party through conduct inconsistent with the arbitration clause, which would thus indicate that he had abandoned his right to avail himself thereof." (Applicolor, Inc. v. Surface Combustion Corp. (1966), 77 Ill. App.2d 260, 266-67, 222 N.E.2d 168; Brennan v. Kenwick (1981), 97 Ill. App.3d 1040, 1042; Gateway Drywall & Decorating, Inc. v. Village Construction Co. (1979), 76 Ill. App.3d 812, 815, 395 N.E.2d 613.) Applicolor, the leading Illinois case on the question of waiver, has been cited for the proposition that "a defendant's conduct [amounts to waiver] * * * when he admits the existence of a contract for ...


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