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R-Five Inc. v. Shadeco Inc.

June 04, 1999

R-FIVE, INC., PLAINTIFF AND COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT,
v.
SHADECO, INC., AND MORNINGSTAR LAMP COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANTS AND COUNTERPLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 96 M1-707253 and 96 M1-707254 Honorable Michael J. Murray, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman

Defendants Shadeco, Inc., and Morningstar Lamp Company, Inc., leased certain industrial property, title to such property being held in a Illinois land trust in which plaintiff R-Five, Inc., was a named beneficiary. Plaintiff filed separate forcible entry and detainer actions against each defendant and subsequently these actions were consolidated by the trial court. Plaintiff now appeals the trial court's dismissal of its second amended complaints based on the trial court's finding that plaintiff, as a beneficiary under the terms of the trust agreement, could not be the lessor for purposes of the leases upon which the complaints are predicated and, therefore, had no standing to enforce the terms of the leases by forcible entry and detainer actions against the defendants as lessees.

The issue on appeal is whether plaintiff, as a beneficiary designated in the land trust agreement, could enter into and enforce the leases. We find that plaintiff did not violate the provisions of the land trust agreement by entering into the subject leases and was the lessor in the leases. Accordingly, plaintiff's complaints should not have been dismissed and we reverse the trial court's orders.

The dispute in the present case involves property commonly known as 4500 South Kolin Avenue (hereinafter referred to as the subject property). The legal titleholder of the subject property is an Illinois land trust identified as LaSalle National Trust, N.A., as trustee under trust No. 118946, dated July 19, 1994 (hereinafter referred to as the Trustee). The trust agreement names two beneficiaries: (1) George J. Renaldi, Jr., as trustee under the George J. Renaldi, Jr., revocable trust dated November 29, 1983, and (2) plaintiff R-Five, an Illinois corporation.

Paragraph G of the trust agreement states in relevant part:

"(G) The beneficiary or beneficiaries hereunder in his,her or their own right shall have the management of saidproperty and control of the selling, renting and handlingthereof and the keeping, performing and enforcing of allleases and agreements and covenants running with the land,and each beneficiary or his or her agent shall collect andhandle his or her share of the rents, earnings, avails andproceeds or in respect to the keeping, performing orenforcing of any leases, agreements, or covenants runningwith the land, or in respect to the payment of taxes orassessments or in respect to insurance, litigation or otherwise, except as herein otherwise provided. Nobeneficiary hereunder shall have any authority to contractfor or in the name of the Trustee or to bind the Trusteepersonally. No legal action shall be brought in the name ofthe Trustee without its prior consent in writing."

In September 1994, by two separate industrial building leases, Shadeco and Morningstar Lamp leased portions of the subject property. First, on September 28, 1994, Shadeco, as the lessee, executed an industrial building lease with a rider for a portion of the subject property. Second, on September 29, 1994, Morningstar Lamp, as the lessee, executed an industrial building lease with a rider for another portion of the subject property.

Within the two leases and the two riders, the lessor is identified four times. The first page of each lease expressly designates "LESSOR R-Five, Inc., Beneficiary under LaSalle National Trust No. 118946 c/o Joseph G. Kusper." Each rider provides "R-FIVE, INC., BENEFICIARY UNDER LASALLE NATIONAL TRUST No. 1189461 ('Lessor')." The signature line of each rider states "LASALLE NATIONAL TRUST NO. 118946 By: R-Five, Inc., Beneficiary." The signature line of each lease states "LESSOR: LaSalle National Trust No. 118946 BY: R-Five, Inc." Both leases and both riders are signed by Joseph G. Kusper, who is identified as the vice president of R-Five.

On March 22, 1996, two separate complaints in forcible entry and detainer were filed by the Trustee against Shadeco and Morningstar Lamp, respectively. Each complaint alleged that the respective defendant had violated its lease by failing to pay rent and to maintain the premises in a clean and healthful condition. Each complaint further alleged that the respective defendant had received notice of the violations by a landlord's 10-day notice, which was served on February 21, 1996. Each complaint sought immediate possession of the leased premises and holdover rent.

The complaints subsequently were amended, restating the same allegations (failure to pay rent and to maintain the premises in a clean and healthful condition) and seeking the same relief (possession and monetary damages); however, they sought increased monetary damages. Alias summonses were issued and served. The trial court entered an order on April 22, 1996, to initiate discovery.

Shadeco and Morningstar Lamp filed counterclaims for constructive eviction, on April 29, 1996, and May 30, 1996, respectively. Subsequently, Shadeco and Morningstar Lamp apparently vacated the subject property, on May 28, 1996, and June 10, 1996, respectively. On July 1, 1996, the trial court consolidated the individual cases against Shadeco and Morningstar Lamp for purposes of trial and discovery.

In 1997, defendants filed a notice and subpoena for records from the then plaintiff Trustee pertaining to all trust records as to trust No. 118946. Later, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Trustee's first amended complaints for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1996)). Defendants directed attention to specific provisions in the trust agreement that designate R-Five as a beneficiary and that prohibit any beneficiary from contracting in the name of the trustee. Defendants further contended that the leases at issue were executed by R-Five, a beneficiary, as agent of the trust without authority to do so and in violation of the express language of paragraph (G) the trust agreement. Accordingly, defendants argued that the Trustee cannot ever succeed in pursuing a claim for breach of the leases in question.

The Trustee was dismissed from the litigation with prejudice and R-Five was substituted as the plaintiff by agreed order dated October 7, 1997. On October 10, 1997, a second amended complaint was filed against defendants with R-Five as plaintiff. In contrast with the two previously filed complaints, plaintiff now sought monetary damages only; the claim for possession then being moot. In its second amended complaint, plaintiff stated that it was a beneficiary under the subject trust agreement, that the trust is the legal titleholder of the subject property, and, as beneficiary, plaintiff leased portions of the subject property to defendants.

In response, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1996)) and for plaintiff's alleged lack of capacity to sue ...


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