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12/31/96 JEFFREY KOLAR AND LINDA KOLAR v. ARLINGTON

December 31, 1996

JEFFREY KOLAR AND LINDA KOLAR, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
ARLINGTON TOYOTA, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Robert J. Quinn, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication February 13, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Rakowski delivered the opinion of the court. DiVITO, P.j., and McNULTY, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rakowski

JUSTICE RAKOWSKI delivered the opinion of the court:

Following an arbitration award pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 86 through 95, the circuit court awarded attorney fees that were neither requested at the arbitration hearing nor contained in the award. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the trial court's judgment of attorney fees.

FACTS

Dissatisfied after the purchase of a used car from defendant Arlington Toyota, Inc., the plaintiffs Jeffrey and Linda Kolar filed suit in the Cook County circuit court alleging breach of contract and violations of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1994)). The cause was assigned to mandatory arbitration and was set for hearing on November 18, 1993. Although the first amended complaint contained a prayer for attorney fees, plaintiffs did not request attorney fees at arbitration. Following a hearing, an arbitration panel awarded plaintiffs $4,500 in damages. Neither party exercised its right to reject the award within the 30-day period provided by Supreme Court Rule 93(a) (145 Ill. 2d R. 93(a)). On January 3, 1994, on plaintiffs' motion, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 92(c) (155 Ill. 2d R. 92(c)), the trial court entered judgment on the award in the amount of $4,500 and costs.

On January 31, 1994, plaintiffs filed a verified petition for costs, expenses, and attorney fees in the circuit court. Following a denial of defendant's motion to strike the fee petition, the court awarded plaintiffs $17,707.20 in attorney fees and $911.01 in court costs. On November 10, 1994, the trial court granted plaintiffs' supplemental fee petition and awarded an additional $8,323.20 in attorney fees and $23.62 in expenses. Defendant contends the trial court erred in awarding plaintiffs attorney fees totaling $26,030.40. Defendant does not contest the $934.63 in costs and expenses.

ANALYSIS

The arbitration process is an alternative to costly and lengthy litigation and provides a means of obtaining an expedited hearing and decision in appropriate cases. J. Lerner, Mandatory Arbitration: Welcome to Illinois, 76 Ill. B.J. 418 (1988). In 1986, the Illinois General Assembly passed enabling legislation for a mandatory arbitration system in the Illinois circuit courts. See 735 ILCS 5/2-1001A et seq. (West 1994). The Illinois Supreme Court implemented the system with Supreme Court Rules 86 through 95 (originally set forth at 134 Ill. 2d Rs. 86-95). Supreme Court Rule 86(c) provides that each individual circuit court may adopt rules governing the conduct of arbitration proceedings. 155 Ill. 2d R. 86(c). The rules governing the Cook County circuit court are embodied in part 18 of its rules entitled "Mandatory Arbitration of Certain Civil Cases." Cook Co. Cir. Ct. R. 18.1 et seq. (eff. October 5, 1995).

Supreme Court Rule 86(b) provides "[a] civil action shall be subject to mandatory arbitration if each claim therein is exclusively for money in an amount or of a value not in excess of the monetary limit authorized by the Supreme Court for that circuit or county within that circuit, exclusive of interest and costs." 155 Ill. 2d R. 86(b). As originally enacted, this rule provided that the claim could not have a value exceeding $15,000. 134 Ill. 2d R. 86(b). Today, however, via the Cook County Circuit Court Rules, the monetary limit on damages is set at $30,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Cook Co. Cir. Co. R. 18.3(b) (eff. October 2, 1995).

Supreme Court Rule 89 provides for prehearing discovery in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 222 (Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 20 (Sept. 27, 1995), R. 222, eff. Jan. 1, 1996). Official Report Advance Sheet No. 9 (April 24, 1996), R. 89, amended and eff. March 26, 1996. Supreme Court Rule 90(a) further provides that the arbitrators shall have the power to determine the admissibility of evidence and to decide the law and the facts of the case. 145 Ill. 2d R. 90(a). Finally, Supreme Court Rule 92 provides that the award made by the arbitration panel shall dispose of all claims for relief and that if none of the parties files a notice of rejection, any party may move the court to enter judgment on the award. 155 Ill. 2d R. 92(b), (c).

"The Supreme Court Rules concerning mandatory arbitration should not each be interpreted in isolation; instead, they should be considered in conjunction with the other mandatory arbitration rules." Ratkovich v. Hamilton, 267 Ill. App. 3d 908, 913, 204 Ill. Dec. 933, 642 N.E.2d 834 (1994). The rules should also be read in light of other applicable supreme court rules, the aforementioned circuit court rules (Cook Co. Cir. Ct. R. 18.1 et seq. (eff. October 5, 1995)), and enabling legislation (735 ILCS 5/2-1001A et seq. (West 1994)).

After reviewing the Illinois mandatory arbitration scheme in its entirety, we conclude that the system is not to be used as a supplement to trial. Nor is the mandatory arbitration system to be used to decide certain issues piecemeal, while allowing the parties to go to trial on other issues. Rather, the system is an alternative to trial where all issues raised by the parties are decided by the ...


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