APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION
513 N.E.2d 55, 159 Ill. App. 3d 955, 111 Ill. Dec. 809 1987.IL.1181
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Warren D. Wolfson, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. SULLIVAN, P.J., and PINCHAM, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LORENZ
Plaintiff appeals from a directed verdict that was entered in favor of the defendant. The issues raised on appeal are: (1) whether it was proper for the trial court to grant defendant's motion for directed verdict; and (2) whether plaintiff's claim is barred by the doctrine of res judicata.
The following facts are pertinent to the Disposition of this case. The plaintiff brought this action to recover for the failure of the defendant to provide her with legal representation in the course of proceedings brought by her employer, the Chicago board of education, to terminate her employment as a principal in the Chicago public schools.
In count I of her second amended complaint, plaintiff alleged that she had relied upon a document circulated by the Chicago Principals Association (association) that included "Legal Representation from Association Attorney" as one of the benefits of membership. Plaintiff further alleged that she and her attorney met with the association's president and attorney after she was notified of her suspension, at which time the association's president stated that the association's attorney would act as co-counsel with plaintiff's attorney in the termination proceedings instituted by the Chicago board of education, with particular emphasis on advising the plaintiff and her attorney regarding administrative procedures followed by the Board.
In count II of her second amended complaint, plaintiff alleged that the association, as her exclusive bargaining agent with the Chicago board of education, had a fiduciary duty to plaintiff to assist her in the preparation and presentation of her defense to charges levied against her by the Chicago board of education. Plaintiff further alleged that the association subsequently terminated its assistance in her defense and refused repeated requests for assistance, thereby breaching the alleged agreement contained in the documents listing benefits of membership and breaching the alleged fiduciary duty. As a result, plaintiff expended money for legal assistance which she would not otherwise have incurred, was eventually left unaided and without legal assistance whatsoever, and lost her employment with the Chicago board of education.
The association denied plaintiff's allegations and further alleged that another action between the plaintiff and the Chicago Principals Association for the same cause of action, McCutcheon v. Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Principals Association, No. 76 C. 4763, was then pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. In that case plaintiff had claimed that the association had discriminated against her on the basis of sex in refusing her legal representation or reimbursement for attorney fees in connection with civil, criminal and administrative actions, including the dismissal proceedings which are the subject of this lawsuit. The district court had granted the association's motion for summary judgment in that case. Plaintiff's appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was dismissed, and the United States Supreme Court subsequently denied plaintiff's petition for writ of certiorari.
Based on the district court's ruling, the association moved for summary judgment in this matter contending that plaintiff's claim herein is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The motion for summary judgment was denied and the association unsuccessfully attempted to pursue an interlocutory appeal. The case proceeded to trial. At the close of the plaintiff's case, which consisted of the plaintiff's testimony and 10 exhibits, the association moved for a directed verdict. The trial court granted the motion as to the fiduciary duty claim, ruled that res judicata does not preclude the issues in this case, and reserved ruling as to count I for the close of all of the evidence. The association's case consisted of the testimony of its current president, Loretta Nolan, and its former president, Samuel Dolnick. Dolnick testified by means of an evidence deposition that was read into the record. Several exhibits were also admitted into evidence.
The plaintiff did not put on any evidence in rebuttal and the association renewed its motion for directed verdict. The trial court found that there had been no contradiction of facts in the case and that the list of benefits of membership did not constitute a contract. The trial court further found that the parties had entered into a contract at the meeting alleged in plaintiff's second amended complaint and that the terms of the contract were confirmed by a letter that plaintiff sent to Dolnick. The terms of that agreement were that plaintiff would be provided with a due process defense only. The court found that Dolnick had best defined due process as to see to it that the procedures and rules of the board are followed ...