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Pinilla v. Harza Engineering Company

July 25, 2001

JUAN ANDRES PINILLA, AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JUAN M. PINILLA OSORIO, DECEASED, PABLO GONZALEZ BERGEZ, HECTOR LANFRANCO, AND MARTIN CAMPBELL, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
HARZA ENGINEERING COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke

UNPUBLISHED

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas P. Quinn, Judge Presiding

Plaintiffs Juan Andres Pinilla, as administrator of the Estate of Juan M. Pinilla Osorio, deceased, Pablo Gonzalez Bergez, Hector Lanfranco, and Martin Campbell appeal from an order of the circuit court granting defendant Harza Engineering Company's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' petition for registration of a foreign judgment and petition to revive judgment pursuant to sections 2--619 and 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--619, 2--615 (West 1998)). On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the statute of limitations set forth in section 12--108(a) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/12--108(a) (West 1998)) does not apply to registration of foreign judgments; that the 20-year revival period set forth in section 13--218 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/13--218 (West 1998)) should be applied to foreign judgments; that their revival petition was not premature; and that the documents attached to their petition for registration were properly authenticated judgments. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse and remand.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiffs seek enforcement of two judgments for attorney fees ordered payable to them from defendant in an action in Argentina in which plaintiffs represented the Argentina plaintiffs against defendant. On September 27, 1990, an Argentina trial court entered judgment against defendant in favor of plaintiffs. On March 21, 1991, the court of appeals of Argentina modified the judgment, reducing the amount of attorney fees awarded to plaintiffs.

On December 3, 1999, plaintiffs filed a "Notice of Filing Petition to Register" in the circuit court of Cook County. On December 30, 1999, plaintiffs filed a "Petition for Revival of Judgment" (revival petition), seeking to revive the Argentina judgments. On January 3, 2000, defendant objected to plaintiffs' December 3 notice of filing, arguing that plaintiffs failed to attach a copy of a "Petition to Register Foreign Judgment." On January 11, plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file instanter a petition to register foreign judgment, indicating that they had inadvertently failed to attach a copy of the petition to their notice of filing. The trial court granted this motion and, on January 20, plaintiffs filed a "Petition to Register Foreign Judgment" (registration petition or petition to register), seeking to register the two Argentina judgments. Plaintiffs attached two documents in Spanish and an unofficial English translation of each. These documents contain various stamps, seals, and attestations.

On February 10, 2000, defendant filed a motion to dismiss both petitions. It sought to dismiss the registration petition pursuant to section 2--619(a)(9) of the Code, arguing that the petition was barred by the seven-year statute of limitations period set forth in section 12--108(a) of the Code. *fn1 It also sought to dismiss the registration petition pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code based on plaintiffs failure to attach duly authenticated copies of the foreign judgments to the petition; plaintiffs only attached what appeared to be two affidavits which included excerpts from the court records and proceedings. With respect to the revival petition, defendant sought to dismiss this petition pursuant to section 2--619(a)(9) of the Code, arguing that plaintiffs had no judgment to revive because they had no valid enforceable Illinois judgment and, therefore, plaintiffs' petition was premature.

In its memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss, defendant alleged that this was plaintiffs' seventh attempt in over six years to obtain recognition and enforcement of the Argentina judgments. In this regard, plaintiffs first filed an action against defendant in the federal district court in September 1993, seeking to recognize and enforce the Argentina judgments. After being allowed the opportunity to amend their complaint, the district court dismissed plaintiffs' second amended complaint, finding that plaintiffs had simply attached a letter rogatory to their complaint, which was not enforceable, and that plaintiffs had never provided the court with a copy of the judgments they sought to enforce.

In August 1995, plaintiffs again filed a complaint against defendant, this time in the circuit court of Cook County. The circuit court dismissed the complaint because plaintiffs attached letters rogatory, which were not judicially enforceable, and failed to attach a copy of the judgments they sought to enforce. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on two occasions, adding English translations of the Spanish documents they had attached to their complaint. The trial court dismissed plaintiffs' second amended complaint on June 12, 1996, finding that plaintiffs still had failed to attach a copy of the judgments they sought to enforce to their complaint.

On March 24, 2000, the trial court dismissed plaintiffs' petitions in the present case pursuant to section 2--619 and section 2--615 of the Code. With respect to the registration petition, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to file their petition within the seven-year statute of limitations period and, therefore, the petition was barred. The court dismissed the revival petition, finding that it was premature since plaintiffs did not yet have an Illinois judgment to enforce, e.g., plaintiffs had no right to enforce their judgments until they were recognized in Illinois. The trial court additionally stated that defendant's motion pursuant to section 2--615 had merit and dismissed both of plaintiffs' petitions with prejudice on that basis. This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

"A section 2--619 motion to dismiss affords a defendant a means of obtaining a summary disposition when the plaintiff's claim can be defeated as a matter of law or on the basis of easily proved issues of fact." McGee v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 315 Ill. App. 3d 673, 680, 734 N.E.2d 144 (2000). A motion pursuant to section 2--619 admits as true all well-pleaded facts and inferences to be drawn from the facts. McGee, 315 Ill. App. 3d at 680. A motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2--619(a)(5) permits dismissal when "the action was not commenced within the time limited by law," and a motion pursuant to section 2--619(a)(9) permits dismissal when "the claim asserted against defendant is barred by other affirmative matter avoiding the legal effect of or defeating the claim." 735 ILCS 5/2--619(a)(5), (9) (West 1998). We review the trial court's decision de novo. Kedzie & 103rd Currency Exchange, Inc. v. Hodge, 156 Ill. 2d 112, 116, 619 N.E.2d 732 (1993).

The enforcement of judgments rendered by courts outside the State of Illinois is governed under two uniform statutes: *fn2 the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act (Recognition Act) (735 ILCS 5/12--618 et seq. (West 1998)) and the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (Enforcement Act) (735 ILCS 5/12--650 et seq. (West 1998)). The Recognition Act recognizes judgments of a foreign state, which is "any governmental unit other than the United States, or any state." 735 ILCS 5/12--618(a) (West 1998). The Recognition Act provides that as long as a foreign judgment is "final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered" (735 ILCS 5/12--619 (West 1998)), it "is enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state which is entitled to full faith and credit" (735 ILCS 5/12--620 (West 1998)). The Enforcement Act governs enforcement of foreign judgments of "a court of the United States or of any other court which is entitled to full faith and credit in this State." 735 ILCS 5/12--651 (West 1998).

The Recognition Act serves the purpose only of allowing a United States court a means to recognize a foreign judgment. The Recognition Act does not establish the procedure to file or enforce a foreign judgment. See 9 Am. Jur. Proof of Facts 3d, Invalidity of Judgment of Court of Foreign Country, ยง4, at 703 (1990). The Recognition Act does provide, however, that once a foreign judgment is recognized, it is to be enforced in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state. 735 ILCS 5/12--620 (West 1998). Thus, the methods to file and enforce a foreign judgment would be ...


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