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03/28/96 ROBERT ALAN SHRAMUK v. CHARLES C. SNYDER

March 28, 1996

ROBERT ALAN SHRAMUK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLES C. SNYDER, INDIV., AND AS A PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 94-AR-0117. Honorable Joseph S. Bongiorno, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication April 29, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Geiger delivered the opinion of the court: McLAREN, P.j., and Hutchinson, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Geiger

The Honorable Justice GEIGER delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Robert Alan Shramuk, appeals from the order of the circuit court of Du Page County dismissing his claim for attorney fees pursuant to section 1 of the Attorneys Fees in Wage Actions Act (the Act) (705 ILCS 225/1 (West 1994)). The defendant, Charles C. Snyder, a professional corporation, filed a motion to dismiss the appeal or, alternatively, for summary affirmance, which this court ordered taken with the case. After reviewing the merits, we deny the defendant's motion. As to the plaintiff's appeal, we reverse and remand.

After passing the Illinois State Bar Examination in 1990, the plaintiff began employment as an associate attorney with the defendant. The plaintiff was promised an annual salary of $32,000 per calendar year. For the 1991 calendar year, the defendant paid the plaintiff a total of $29,000. On or about January 1, 1992, the plaintiff gave notice to the defendant that he would be leaving its employ. On or about March 3, 1992, the plaintiff ceased working for the defendant.

On August 29, 1992, the plaintiff sent a letter to the defendant wherein the plaintiff discussed the transfer of his "SEP-IRA contribution" from the defendant. In response, the defendant sent the plaintiff a letter advising him that he was not eligible for a SEP contribution for the calendar year 1991 because he had not completed three full years of service with the defendant prior to 1991.

On December 8, 1993, the plaintiff, by his attorneys, sent the defendant a letter and a copy of the complaint. In that letter, the plaintiff stated, "pursuant to 705 ILCS 225/1, please consider this correspondence as a request for $3,000.00 in wages owing to [the plaintiff] as more fully set forth in the enclosed Complaint." In the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he was owed an amount in excess of $4,681.00 in wages and unpaid bonuses.

On January 11, 1994, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendant for various causes of action, including claims for unpaid wages. On February 3, 1994, the defendant filed a motion to strike the plaintiff's claim for attorney fees under the Act. On April 21, 1994, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to strike the claim for attorney fees under the Act.

On September 28, 1994, following an arbitration hearing, the arbitrators awarded the plaintiff $3,720 in damages, $3,257.93 in attorney fees, and $158 in costs. On October 26, 1994, the defendant rejected the arbitrators' award to the plaintiff.

On May 16, 1995, the trial commenced. At the conclusion of the plaintiff's case in chief, the defendant presented a motion for a directed finding, arguing that the plaintiff's claim for attorney fees under the Act should be dismissed on the grounds that the employment position held by the plaintiff with the defendant, i.e., an associate attorney, is not of the same general nature as those employment positions listed in section 1 of the Act. After hearing argument on the issue, the trial court denied the defendant's motion for a directed finding.

On May 17, 1995, at the conclusion of the trial, the trial court awarded the plaintiff $3,500 plus costs of $158. However, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's claim for attorney fees under the Act based upon its finding that the defendant did not vexatiously refuse to pay the plaintiff his wages due and owing.

On June 12, 1995, the plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider the May 17, 1995, order dismissing his claim for attorney fees under the Act. Also on June 12, 1995, the trial court denied the motion. On July 11, 1995, the plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal.

On appeal, the plaintiff argues that, as there are no cross-appeals pending, the sole issue is whether the trial court correctly interpreted the Act as requiring that the employee prove that the employer vexatiously refused to pay wages due and owing to the employee. The plaintiff seems to be arguing that the defendant should have filed a cross-appeal. However, a party cannot complain of error which does not prejudicially affect it, and a party that has obtained by judgment all that it has asked for in the trial court cannot appeal from the judgment. Material Service Corp. v. Department of Revenue, 98 Ill. 2d 382, 386, 75 Ill. Dec. 219, 457 N.E.2d 9 (1983). The forum of the appellate courts should not be afforded to successful parties who may not agree with the reasons, conclusion, or findings of the trial court. Material Service Corp., 98 Ill. 2d at 386. Contrary to what the plaintiff argues, it was unnecessary for the defendant to file a cross-appeal. See Material Service Corp., 98 Ill. 2d at 387. It is the judgment and not what else may have been said by the trial court that is on appeal. Material Service Corp., 98 Ill. 2d at 387. The reviewing court is not bound to accept the reasons given by the trial court for its judgment. Material Service Corp., 98 Ill. 2d at 387. The trial court's judgment may be sustained upon any ...


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