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12/01/88 Harry Devlin Et Al., Indiv v. Local No. 1

December 1, 1988

HARRY DEVLIN ET AL., INDI

v.

AND AS A CLASS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES NO. 4-88-0354



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

531 N.E.2d 446, 176 Ill. App. 3d 599, 126 Ill. Dec. 151 1988.IL.1738

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macoupin County; the Hon. Claude J. Davis, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court. McCULLOUGH, P.J., and SPITZ, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE GREEN

On June 25, 1985, 12 named plaintiffs filed a complaint in the circuit court of Macoupin County appearing individually and as a class which they subsequently requested the court to certify. A subsequent amended complaint requested a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against defendants Local Nos. 1 and 34 and their present officers. Defendants moved to "strike" the amended complaint on grounds it failed to state a cause of action and any cause otherwise stated was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. On November 3, 1987, the court allowed the motion on the latter grounds. On November 25, 1987, plaintiffs moved for leave to replead and defendants moved for summary judgment based upon the same res judicata theory upon which the motion to strike was allowed. On April 18, 1988, the court granted defendants summary judgment and denied plaintiffs' motion to replead. No class was ever certified. Plaintiffs appeal.

The complaint stated plaintiffs were members, widows, or heirs of members of Local Nos. 1 and 34 and sought to sue on behalf of all such persons. They contended the defendant union locals were no longer legal entities because the locals had no contracts with any employers since 1954 and 1968, respectively. They contended the locals held $103,000 plus interest which was the proceeds paid to them pursuant to a court order in Macoupin County cause No. 82 -- MR -- 4 in the same court as a portion of the proceeds arising from the sale of a funeral home operation owned by the two locals. The complaint asserted the locals held this money in trust for the class of persons which plaintiffs sought to represent. Plaintiffs requested (1) a declaration that their class was entitled to a distribution of those proceeds to them on an equitable basis, and (2) the appointment of a receiver to obtain those proceeds and to make distribution.

On appeal, plaintiffs maintain: (1) application of the doctrine of res judicata was error because, as between this case and case No. 82 -- MR -- 4, neither identity of parties acting in the same capacity nor identity of subject matter existed; (2) entry of summary judgment was error when no pleadings existed upon which the judgment could operate; (3) entering of summary judgment was error because the proceeding was a class action and no class had been designated to which the judgment applied; and (4) the court erred in not allowing plaintiffs to replead.

We examine first the question of whether identity of parties, subject matter, and cause of action existed between the present case and prior case No. 82 -- MR -- 4. When that is so, of course, the decision in the prior case is binding on the parties to the subsequent case. (City of Hickory Hills v. Village of Bridgeview (1977), 67 Ill. 2d 399, 367 N.E.2d 1305; Beckman v. Freeman United Coal Mining Co. (1986), 151 Ill. App. 3d 47, 502 N.E.2d 64.) In order to determine that question here, a somewhat detailed explanation of the facts involved is necessary. The existence of the background information in the succeeding paragraphs is apparently not disputed by the parties.

From the 1920's up until they shut down in the 1950's or 1960's, the Little Dog Coal Company (Little Dog) and Superior Coal Company (Superior) employed coal miners to work in their mines. These miners were initially members of the United Mine Workers and subsequently became members of the Progressive Mine Workers of America. Employees of Superior belonged to Local No. 1, while employees of Little Dog belonged to Local No. 34.

The Union Funeral Association (Association) was formed in 1924, financed apparently through miners' wage deductions and contributions from the local unions. This association then provided low-cost funerals to members and their families. While in operation, the local unions loaned money to the Association: (1) Local No. 34 loaned it $1,648 on January 1, 1956; and (2) Local No. 1 loaned it $20,250 on January 1, 1958.

In 1956, the Association passed a resolution ordering its trustees, board members, and officers to convey four-fifths of its property to Local No. 1 and the remaining one-fifth of its property to Local No. 34. Local Nos. 1 and 34 passed a resolution instructing their delegates to vote to transfer title to the property to them. The resolution indicated the locals "[wished] to [perpetuate] the ownership of the . . . Association in Local unions No. 1 and No. 34 . . . in order that said ownership of the said . . . Association remains with the miners who have made [ it ] possible." (Emphasis added.) The Association transferred its four-fifths interest to Local No. 1 and its one-fifth interest to Local No. 34 by warranty deed dated July 24, 1956.

The Association discontinued its funeral business in July 1981. Just prior to that date, Local Nos. 1 and 34 passed resolutions which directed their delegates to transfer their respective interests in the Association property to a bona fide purchaser. The locals did, in fact, transfer their interests to Wesley Charles and Jeanne Kay Landers by warranty deed dated August 13, 1981. The sale of the Association's real estate and personal property netted $275,000. That sum, plus other assets of the Association, totaled approximately $450,000.

In December 1981, Local Nos. 1 and 34 passed a joint resolution "vesting" a one-third interest of the Association assets in Local No. 34 and a two-thirds interest in Local No. 1. On April 15, 1982, individual members of Local Nos. 1 and 34 filed a complaint in the circuit court of Macoupin County for declaratory judgment against the locals, the Association, and unknown owners and unknown parties (case No. 82 -- MR -- 4). The plaintiffs asked that the court declare the rights, duties, and obligations of the parties; appoint a receiver; distribute the assets as follows: ...


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