Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois Consolidated Nos. 97-L-62 & 97-L-239 Honorable Bruce W. Black Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Omni Trading, Inc. (Omni) issued Country Grain Elevators, Inc. (Country Grain) two checks for grain it had purchased. Country Grain then endorsed the checks over to the law firm of Carter & Grimsley (Carter) as a retainer. Soon after, Country Grain failed. Omni stopped payment on the checks, and Carter filed a complaint, alleging that it was entitled to the checks as a holder in due course. The Illinois Department of Agriculture (Department) also filed a complaint claiming the check proceeds. Both Carter and the Department filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted the Department's motion and denied Carter's motion. Carter appeals, and we affirm.
Omni purchased some grain from Country Grain, and on February 2, 1996, it issued two checks, totaling $75,000, to Country Grain. Country Grain, in turn, endorsed the checks over to Carter as a retainer for future legal services. Carter deposited the checks on February 5; Country Grain failed the next day. On February 8, Carter was notified that Omni had stopped payment on the checks. Carter subsequently filed a complaint against Omni and the director of the Department, alleging that it was entitled to the proceeds of the checks, plus pre-judgment interest, as a holder in due course.
The Department filed a complaint against Carter, Omni, and Country Grain based on its statutory lien in the grain assets and equity assets of the grain elevator on behalf of the grain producers. The trial court consolidated the two complaints. Omni was subsequently dismissed as a party after depositing $43,721.50 in escrow, to be paid to either Carter or the Department.
Carter and the Department filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After hearing oral arguments and receiving supplemental written arguments on these motions, the trial court granted the Department's motion and denied Carter's motion, ordering the escrowed funds to be turned over to the Department.
Rulings on motions for summary judgment are reviewed de novo. Murneigh v. Gainer, 177 Ill. 2d 287, 297, 685 N.E.2d 1357, 1362-63 (1997). Summary judgment may be granted when no genuine issue of material fact remains, and the case may be resolved as a matter of law. People ex rel. Toynton v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 285 Ill. App. 3d 357, 360, 674 N.E.2d 809, 811 (1996).
Carter argues that its motion for summary judgment should have been granted because, as a holder in due course, it has the right to recover on the checks from the drawer, Omni.
The Illinois Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) defines a holder in due course as:
"the holder of an instrument if:
(1) the instrument when issued *** does not bear such apparent evidence of forgery or alteration or is not otherwise so irregular or incomplete as to call into question its authenticity, and (2) the holder took the instrument (i) for value, (ii) in good faith, (iii) without notice that the instrument is overdue or has been dishonored or that there is an uncured with respect to payment of another instrument issued as part of the same series, (iv) without notice that the instrument contains an unauthorized signature or has been altered, (v) without notice of any claim to the instrument described in Section 3-306, and (vi) without notice that any party has a defense or claim in recoupment stated in Section 3-305(a)." 810 ILCS 5/3-302(a) (West 1996).
Section 3-303(a) of the UCC also states that: (a) "An instrument is issued or transferred for value if: (1) the instrument is issued or transferred for a promise of performance, to the extent that the promise has been ...