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Burns v. Regional Tran. Auth.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Anthony J. Scotillo, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied February 8, 1983.

This action consolidates six complaints filed by persons who purchased July 1981 monthly passes from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to contest ordinances of the CTA and Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) whereby transit fare increases affected July monthly pass holders. Plaintiffs contend that their monthly passes were contracts which entitled them, in all events and regardless of intervening fare increases, to unlimited use of CTA service for the month of July at the original price charged for their passes.

On November 7, 1979, the Chicago Transit Board (the governing body of the CTA) passed an ordinance authorizing the sale of monthly transportation passes in the Chicago metropolitan area. Purchasers of the monthly passes received unlimited services on the CTA facilities for the appropriate month upon presentation of a pass.

The public was encouraged to purchase monthly passes through a variety of advertising media including television, radio and printed circulars which touted the monthly pass for its convenience. The public was told that all purchasers of passes would be entitled to unlimited ridership for that month without the bother of needing correct change or a transfer. A pamphlet entitled "CTA Monthly Pass" contained a typical description of the benefits of owning a monthly pass. The pamphlet read in part as follows:

"Congratulations on receiving your CTA Monthly Pass. You now have unlimited riding privileges on the CTA for the entire month for which your pass has been issued. Correct change is unnecessary and you won't have to buy a transfer — you'll just show your Pass!"

CTA monthly passes were sold for approximately one year, when in December 1980, as the result of a financial crisis, defendants authorized a series of fare increases. The price of a CTA monthly pass thereafter rose from $30 to $35. The following summer (1981), defendants' fiscal problems had still not yet been resolved and in order to avoid system shutdowns, additional fare increases were implemented as well as service cutbacks.

On July 1, 1981, the Chicago Transit Board enacted Ordinance No. 81-88, which increased rates for service on the CTA by 12.5%. The ordinance read in part as follows:

"Ordinance No. 81-88


Basic fare will be ninety cents ($0.90) plus ten cents ($0.10) for a transfer;

Reduced fares will be forty cents ($0.40), plus ten cents ($0.10) for a transfer;

Premium rates for express service shall be ten cents ($0.10) additional;

Monthly passes shall be sold at a charge of forty dollars ($40.00);

Packets of ten (10) tokens shall be sold at a discounted price."

On July 2, 1981, the RTA enacted Ordinance No. 81-179 which, in effect, adopted the CTA's 12.5% rate increase and which authorized the imposition of a surcharge.

CTA fare increases became effective July 6, 1981.

Between June 26 and July 1, 1981, plaintiffs (as well as hundreds of other persons) purchased July monthly passes for $35. They received unlimited service on the CTA's facilities from July 1 through July 5 upon presentation of their passes. When the price hike became effective on July 6, 1981, however, defendants sold daily and monthly tickets to riders at the increased fares and they began collecting a 10-cent-per-ride surcharge from plaintiffs as well as all other holders of July monthly passes who had purchased passes for $35. Each plaintiff had to pay a 10-cent surcharge each time he rode the CTA from July 6 through July 31, 1981, in addition to showing his monthly pass, or else be denied access to CTA facilities.

A number of class action lawsuits were immediately filed in the circuit court of Cook County against the CTA and RTA challenging the imposition of the surcharge against July monthly pass holders. In some cases, injunctions or restraining orders were sought to ban collection of the surcharge. All of these requests were denied. The remaining cases were consolidated and a plaintiff class, representing all July pass holders who purchased July passes prior to July 6, 1981, was organized.

Plaintiffs filed an amended consolidated complaint for all cases which had been consolidated. Count I alleged that defendants had breached the contract they had with July monthly pass holders by imposing a per-ride surcharge. Count II alleged, in the alternative, that if the RTA was not a party to the contract, it had tortiously interfered with the contract between the CTA and July monthly pass holders.

The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on count I, the issue of liability. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on count II was denied. The RTA's motion for summary judgment on count II was granted on the ground that the RTA was a party to the contract with July pass holders and therefore could not have tortiously interfered with its own contract. The court ...

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