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12/10/96 VIRGINIA CRUZ v. NORTHWESTERN CHRYSLER

December 10, 1996

VIRGINIA CRUZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
NORTHWESTERN CHRYSLER PLYMOUTH SALES, INC., CHRYSLER CREDIT CORPORATION, AND CHRYSLER CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Sidney A. Jones III, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication January 29, 1997.

The Honorable Justice McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court. Gordon and Hourihane, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcnulty

JUSTICE McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Virginia Cruz, filed a complaint with multiple counts against Northwestern Chrysler Plymouth Sales (Northwestern), Chrysler Credit Corporation (CCC), and Chrysler Corporation (Chrysler). The court ordered the parties to arbitrate pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 86 (155 Ill. 2d R. 86). The arbitrators awarded a sum to plaintiff without indicating the count or counts on which they based the award. The trial court entered judgment on the award and then awarded plaintiff attorney fees. We reverse because the award does not support an inference that the arbitrators based the award on a statute that authorizes an award of fees to a successful litigant. We do not remand to the arbitrators for clarification of the award because supreme court rules do not permit either the litigants or the court to resubmit an award to arbitrators for clarification or any other purpose.

Plaintiff bought a car from Northwestern in April 1988. She made a downpayment and she agreed to pay monthly installments for five years. Chrysler provided limited warranties for the car. Northwestern assigned its rights under the sales contract to CCC.

Plaintiff returned the car to Northwestern in November 1988. CCC resold the car, but the resale price did not cover the unpaid balance of the sales contract. In August 1989 CCC sued plaintiff for the deficiency. While that case was pending, plaintiff filed a separate suit charging defendants with breaches of warranty in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. ยง 2301 et seq. (1982)) and the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 26, par. 2-314), and with violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Consumer Fraud Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 121 1/2, par. 261 et seq.). She also sought in a separate count a full refund based on her theory that she properly revoked her acceptance of the car. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 26, par. 2-608. She sought attorney fees as well as compensation in the counts charging violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Consumer Fraud Act; she did not seek attorney fees in the counts brought under the UCC.

Plaintiff's attorney, Rhonda Walker, drew the arbitrators' attention to her requests for fees for several of the counts. At the close of the hearing, Walker told the arbitrators she would not present a fee petition to them based on her understanding that her client needed to prevail before she could present the fee petition. She said that, if plaintiff prevailed in arbitration, she would seek judgment on the award and she would present her fee petition to the court.

The arbitrators awarded plaintiff $3,361 against all three defendants. None of the parties filed a rejection of the award pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 93 (145 Ill. 2d R. 93). The trial court entered judgment on the award. See 155 Ill. 2d R. 92(c). Walker then filed her detailed petition for fees, showing a total of almost 90 hours of attorneys' work on the case. She sought compensation of $150 per hour for her work, and she asked the court to multiply the fee by a factor of 1.33 based on the risk she took of recovering no fees at all from her contingent fee agreement.

The trial court found all of the time necessary and agreed to the suggested multiplier. The court also awarded Cruz her costs, for a total award of $19,079.28 in fees and costs. In response to defendants' argument that the arbitrators' order did not specify whether they based the award on counts which permitted fee awards, the court said:

"Nothing was entered in favor of the commercial litigants in this case. And I think that I can conclude from that, that the relative merits of the position are such that Virginia Cruz is entitled to the relief that I've ordered."

On appeal defendants contend that the arbitration award cannot support an award of attorney fees. Illinois courts will not order one party to pay attorney fees for another party unless a statute or the parties' contract authorizes the fee shifting. Baksinski v. Northwestern University, 231 Ill. App. 3d 7, 12, 595 N.E.2d 1106, 172 Ill. Dec. 436 (1992). Where statutes authorize fees for some of a party's claims but not for other claims, the court should award fees only for work necessary for the claim for which the statute authorizes fees. Rubin v. Marshall Field & Co., 232 Ill. App. 3d 522, 534, 597 N.E.2d 688, 173 Ill. Dec. 714 (1992).

Here the Consumer Fraud Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act authorize fee awards for most of the counts of the complaint. However, plaintiff also sought to recover under the UCC on theories of revocation of acceptance and breach of warranty. The UCC does not authorize fee awards. See Rubin, 232 Ill. App. 3d at 534. Any individual count of the complaint could support the arbitrators' entire award. If the arbitrators based the award, at least in part, on the claims under the Consumer Fraud Act or the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, plaintiff is entitled to recover at least part of her attorney fees. If the arbitrators based the award entirely on the counts brought under the UCC, plaintiff is not entitled to recover any attorney fees.

The arbitrators gave no indication of the specific counts on which they based the award. Arbitrators need not state any reasons for their awards ( Pillott v. Allstate Insurance Co., 48 Ill. App. 3d 1043, 1047, 363 N.E.2d 460, 6 Ill. Dec. 778 (1977)), and the lack of specific findings for each claim has no effect on the validity of the award ( Horwitz, Schakner & ...


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