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September 18, 1997


Chief Justice Freeman delivered the opinion of the court. Justice McMORROW took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Freeman

CHIEF JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Cult Awareness Network, filed suit in the circuit court of Cook County against defendants, Church of Scientology International and Church of Scientology of Illinois (collectively, the Church of Scientology), as well as the law firm of Bowles & Moxon. In the complaint, as amended, plaintiff alleged that defendants had engaged in a conspiracy to maliciously prosecute numerous civil actions against plaintiff. The circuit court dismissed the suit for failure to state a cause of action. The court ruled that (i) plaintiff had failed to allege a favorable termination of the underlying actions and (ii) plaintiff had not satisfied the special damage requirement for actions sounding in malicious prosecution. The appellate court affirmed the order of dismissal (279 Ill. App. 3d 66, 215 Ill. Dec. 820, 664 N.E.2d 217), and we allowed plaintiff's petition for leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgments of the appellate and circuit courts and remand the matter to the circuit court for further proceedings.


Because the circuit court dismissed this action pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure, we must take the factually sufficient allegations contained in plaintiff's complaint as true. See Doe v. Calumet City, 161 Ill. 2d 374, 381, 204 Ill. Dec. 274, 641 N.E.2d 498 (1994). Those allegations may be summarized in the following manner.

Plaintiff is a not-for profit corporation engaged in, among other things, educating the public with respect to religious rights, freedoms, and responsibilities. Defendants are two religious corporations and their attorneys. Plaintiff claimed that defendants conspired with each other to carry on a campaign of malicious prosecution for the express purpose of causing plaintiff's bankruptcy and eventual disbandment. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that, between January 24, 1992, and July 1, 1993, various members of the Church of Scientology filed 21 lawsuits which named plaintiff as the defendant. *fn1 Plaintiff further alleged that the lawsuits were filed in several jurisdictions around the country, including Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Washington, D.C. All but one of the suits alleged that plaintiff had violated various state and federal civil rights laws by denying each complainant membership in plaintiff's organization and/or access to its meetings. The lone cause of action that did not contain such allegations was filed by a church member who claimed that plaintiff had fraudulently induced him to do volunteer work. Each of the underlying suits was alleged to have terminated in plaintiff's favor, either by summary judgment or by voluntary and involuntary dismissals.

After setting forth the details of the underlying suits, plaintiff further alleged that the filing of each of the lawsuits constituted a "separate overt act" in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy. In particular, plaintiff claimed that the Church of Scientology "suggested, instigated, encouraged, and assisted the named plaintiffs in the [underlying] lawsuits and complaints." Plaintiff also alleged that Bowles & Moxon provided assistance and support to the Church of Scientology in each of the underlying lawsuits. According to plaintiff, each of those actions was filed without probable cause. Finally, plaintiff claimed that it had suffered damages as a result of the "multiplicity of actions brought by, at the behest of, or with the assistance of defendants." For example, plaintiff alleged that it had incurred substantial attorney fees and increased costs for liability insurance, among other things.

Defendants thereafter filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice for failure to state a cause of action. In support of their motion, defendants argued that none of the underlying suits had ended in a judicial termination that dealt with the factual issues of the case, and thus plaintiff had failed to allege that the actions had terminated in its favor as required under Illinois law. Moreover, defendants claimed that plaintiff had failed to satisfy Illinois' special injury requirement. In their view, the damages alleged by plaintiff constituted nothing more than the usual costs and anxiety associated with defending against an ordinary civil action. The circuit court agreed with both points and granted the motion to dismiss.

As previously noted, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. Although the court acknowledged that plaintiff had alleged that each of the underlying suits was terminated in its favor, either by summary judgment or by dismissal (both voluntary and involuntary), the court nevertheless held that such allegations were insufficient to satisfy the favorable termination requirement as that term had been defined in previous appellate court opinions. The court noted that, under Illinois law, " '[a] favorable termination for purposes of a malicious prosecution claim is one which deals with the factual issue or issues of a case.' (Emphasis added.)" 279 Ill. App. 3d at 70, quoting Bismarck Hotel Co. v. Sutherland, 175 Ill. App. 3d 739, 748, 125 Ill. Dec. 15, 529 N.E.2d 1091 (1988). Plaintiff's allegations, however, failed to indicate that the factual issues in the underlying actions had been adjudicated in plaintiff's favor. 279 Ill. App. 3d at 70. In addition, the appellate court held that plaintiff's allegations for damages did not satisfy the special injury requirement. Rather, the allegations merely constituted "the ordinary harm generated from any legal actions." 279 Ill. App. 3d at 72. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the special damage requirement was satisfied by the multiple number of underlying suits at issue in this case. 279 Ill. App. 3d at 70.


The dispositive issue for our review is whether plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to support a cause of action for civil conspiracy. However, because such an action necessarily depends upon the commission of some underlying tort (see Adcock v. Brakegate, Ltd., 164 Ill. 2d 54, 63, 206 Ill. Dec. 625, 645 N.E.2d 888 (1994); Bonney v. King, 201 Ill. 47, 50, 66 N.E. 377 (1903)), the viability of plaintiff's complaint in this case turns upon whether plaintiff has alleged enough facts to satisfy the elements of malicious prosecution. Therefore, it is appropriate that we examine those elements in determining the adequacy of plaintiff's charge.

In Illinois, the elements of malicious prosecution are well established. The plaintiff must show that the defendant brought the underlying suit maliciously and without probable cause. Moreover, the plaintiff must establish that the former action was terminated in his or her favor. Finally, the plaintiff must plead and prove some "special injury" or special damage beyond the usual expense, time or annoyance in defending a lawsuit. Bank of Lyons v. Schultz, 78 Ill. 2d 235, 239, 35 Ill. Dec. 758, 399 N.E.2d 1286 (1980); Schwartz v. Schwartz, 366 Ill. 247, 250-53, 8 N.E.2d 668 (1937). In the present case, the parties dispute whether plaintiff has satisfactorily pleaded (i) the requisite favorable termination of the underlying suits and (ii) a special injury. We address each in turn.

Favorable Termination

The necessity of alleging a favorable termination in actions for malicious prosection is a long-standing and deeply rooted principle in this court's jurisprudence. Indeed, as early as 1832, this court concluded that the former proceeding must have been legally determined in favor of the malicious prosecution plaintiff before the malicious prosecution action will lie. Feazle v. Simpson, 2 Ill. 30 (1832). Although this court has, over the years, consistently acknowledged the requirement (see Bank of Lyons, 78 Ill. 2d at 239; Schwartz, 366 Ill. at 250; Shedd v. Patterson, 302 Ill. 355, 359, 134 N.E. 705 (1922); Bonney, 201 Ill. at 50; Smith v. Michigan Buggy Co., 175 Ill. 619, 629, 51 N.E. 569 (1898)), it has not had the occasion to identify, with any precision, the types of judicial determinations which constitute a "favorable termination" for purposes of malicious prosecution suits. As a result, the contours of the requirement have been shaped by our appellate court, which in 1970, announced that the favorable termination requirement could be satisfied only by "a judgment which deals with the factual issue of the case, whether the judgment be rendered after a trial or upon motion for summary judgment." (Emphasis added.) Siegel v. City of Chicago, 127 Ill. App. 2d 84, 108, 261 N.E.2d 802 (1970). Since that time, this holding has been relied upon without any detailed analysis, by numerous appellate court decisions, including that which we review today. See, e.g., Kurek v. Kavanagh, Scully, Sudow, White & Frederick, 50 Ill. App. 3d 1033, 1038, 8 Ill. Dec. 805, 365 N.E.2d 1191 (1977); Executive Commercial Services, Ltd. v. Daskalakis, 74 Ill. App. 3d 760, 767, 31 Ill. Dec. 58, 393 N.E.2d 1365 (1979); Savage v. Seed, 81 Ill. App. 3d 744, 749, 36 Ill. ...

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