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Housing Authority v. Ymca





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle County, the Hon. Thomas R. Flood, Judge, presiding.


The plaintiff, the Housing Authority for La Salle County, seeks an injunction against the defendant, the Young Men's Christian Association of Ottawa, prohibiting the construction of a parking lot, a portion of which would encroach on property that the housing authority claims it owns. The housing authority asked the court to quiet title to the disputed parcel of real estate.

The issue here is whether this action is barred by a 1932 default judgment entered against Charles and Ella Deenis (jointly referred to herein as "Deenis"), the housing authority's predecessors in title, in United States v. Wirtz (N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 1932), No. 40531, a condemnation action brought by the Federal government to acquire flood-plain easements over the disputed property as well as adjoining properties. The First Trust Company of Ottawa, the YMCA's predecessor in title, was joined as a co-defendant in the Wirtz case. After the default by Deenis, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered a judgment adjudicating First Trust to be the owner of the property which is the subject matter of this case and awarding First Trust compensation for the condemnation.

The circuit court of La Salle County granted summary judgment for the YMCA, holding that the judgment in Wirtz acts as a collateral estoppel with respect to the ownership of the disputed property. The appellate court affirmed (112 Ill. App.3d 65) with one justice dissenting, and we allowed the housing authority's petition for leave to appeal (87 Ill.2d R. 315). Affirming the judgments below, we hold that the judgment in Wirtz conclusively established that the YMCA's predecessor owned the disputed property as of the date of that judgment.

To determine the effect of the Wirtz judgment on the present litigation it is necessary to review the pleadings and judgment in that proceeding. The petition of the United States alleged that a plan for constructing a system of locks and dams on the Illinois River required the Federal government to acquire, by condemnation, easements and rights-of-way over numerous properties along the Fox River. The waterway project on the Illinois River would, it appeared, alter the course and elevation of the Fox River and might result in flooding the properties which were the subject matter of the condemnation. The petition alleged that the Attorney General of the United States "has been unable to satisfactorily approve the title of the real estate [to be condemned], the same being in a confused state, and that there are many outstanding and adverse claims against the said described real estate." The petition sought a determination of who owned the lands to be flooded by the waterway project and how much they should be paid for the flood-plain easement.

The petition then named 70 individuals and corporations as defendants and briefly set out their claims to various parcels that were being condemned. The claims of First Trust (YMCA's predecessor) and Deenis (the housing authority's predecessor) were set out in a portion of the petition describing unresolved claims to a parcel along the Fox River in Ottawa and referred to as tracts 0-20 to 0-25 in the petition. The land in dispute in this case was a portion of those tracts. In particular the petition alleged:

"That The First Trust Company of Ottawa, Illinois claims the legal title to a part of real estate designated as Tract No. 0-20 to 0-25, under a Warranty Deed from May E. McDougall, a spinster, and Emma K. McDougall, dated December 17, 1926 and recorded December 20, 1926 in Book 626, Page 524, as Document No. 217744 in the Office of the Recorder of LaSalle County, Illinois;

That Ella E. Deenis, wife of Charles G. Deenis, claims the legal title to a part of the real estate designated as Tract No. 0-20 to 0-25, under a Warranty Deed from Charles G. Deenis dated December 24, 1918 and recorded March 13, 1919 in Book 568, Page 37, as Document No. 150901, recorded in the office aforesaid;

That said part of the real estate claimed by Ella A. Deenis is subject to the inchoate dower or statutory interest of Charles G. Deenis, as fixed by the provisions of Paragraph 1, Chapter 41, of Callaghan's Illinois Statutes Annotated, 1924 Edition;

That the property claimed by The First Trust Company of Ottawa, Illinois and Ella A. Deenis is encumbered by a lien for the general taxes for the year 1931."

When Deenis failed to appear, after being served with summons, the United States district court entered a default judgment against them stating that the "petition * * * is hereby taken as confessed against the defendants * * * insofar as they have any claim or interest in the property * * * designated as `Tracts Nos. 0-20 to 0-25' [in the petition]." On the same day that the default judgment was entered, a judgment was also entered finding that First Trust was seized with the fee simple title to real estate, followed by a legal description which the district court referred to as being a part of the real estate designated as "tracts nos. 0-20 to 0-25." The record contains the affidavit of a registered land surveyor stating that all of the land in the instant dispute is covered by the legal description contained in the judgment in the Wirtz case. The judgment awarded First Trust $650 as compensation for condemnation of the flood-plain easement over the land covered by the legal description set forth.

A prior judgment may have preclusive effects in a subsequent action under both res judicata and collateral estoppel. The doctrine of res judicata provides that "a final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and, as to them, constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand or cause of action." (Emphasis added.) (People v. Kidd (1947), 398 Ill. 405, 408.) When res judicata is established "as a bar against the prosecution of a second action between the same parties upon the same claim or demand * * * it is conclusive not only as to every matter which was offered to sustain or defeat the claim or demand, but as to any other matter which might have been offered for that purpose. [Citations.]" Barry v. Commonwealth Edison Co. (1940), 374 Ill. 473, 478.

The doctrine of collateral estoppel applies when a party or someone in privity with a party participates in two separate and consecutive cases arising on different causes of action and some controlling fact or question material to the determination of both causes has been adjudicated against that party in the former suit by a court of competent jurisdiction. (See Illinois State Chamber of Commerce v. Pollution Control Board (1979), 78 Ill.2d 1, 7.) The adjudication of the fact or question "in the first cause will, if properly presented, be conclusive of the same question in the later suit" (Hoffman v. Hoffman (1928), 330 Ill. 413, 417), but "the judgment in the first suit operates as an estoppel only as to the point or question actually litigated and determined and not as to other matters which might have been litigated and determined." (Emphasis added.) ...

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