Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County. No. 96-L-96 Honorable Phillip G. Palmer, Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh
Defendant General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC) appeals from an order of the circuit court of Williamson County entering a judgment in favor of Wilma Adams (plaintiff). On appeal, GMAC raises issues as to (1) whether plaintiff ratified a retail installment contract held by GMAC and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying GMAC's request for a replevin.
The facts of this case resemble a law school hypothetical. Although both parties strongly assert different rights in this matter, much of the evidence appears uncontested. According to plaintiff, on September 13, 1995, plaintiff and her husband, Wilburn Adams, purchased a 1995 Chevrolet pickup from defendant Greg Weeks, Inc. (Weeks). At this time, both defendant and her husband entered into a retail installment contract on a form provided by GMAC. Wilburn Adams signed as the buyer and plaintiff signed as the cobuyer. Under the terms of this contract (the first contract), the payment was to be made in one-year installations over a period of five years.
According to plaintiff, Wilburn Adams returned to Weeks a few days later, purportedly to purchase a bedliner. At that time, a different retail installment contract (the second contract) was presented to Wilburn Adams that would require payments twice a year. Wilburn testified that he signed the document but was never told he was signing a new contract. Although plaintiff never signed this second contract, her purported signature was on the contract. Plaintiff presented testimony from Mark Thompson, an employee of Weeks, that the first contract was destroyed.
GMAC purchased the second contract from Weeks. According to GMAC, it then sent a letter to plaintiff and her husband regarding the second contract, and plaintiff responded in writing that she did not sign the second contract. Leland Barker, an employee of GMAC, purportedly telephoned plaintiff and informed her that GMAC would agree to the terms of the first contract, but plaintiff refused.
GMAC asserts that plaintiff and her husband made no payments to GMAC or Weeks on the vehicle. GMAC contends that improvements and a repair from an accident were made to the vehicle, even after plaintiff and her husband were informed of GMAC holding the second contract. GMAC also contends that plaintiff and her husband listed the cost of the pickup truck as a business expense on their joint tax returns.
Plaintiff filed a complaint against GMAC and Weeks. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the second contract was invalid due to the alleged forgery of her signature. Plaintiff also alleged common law fraud and a violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/2 (1994)) against Weeks.
GMAC filed a counterclaim against both plaintiff and Wilburn Adams and requested in alternate counts a replevin and a money judgment for their failure to pay on the second contract.
The common law fraud charges of plaintiff against Weeks were tried in front of a jury in May 2000. The remaining counts were tried in front of the bench. The jury found in favor of Weeks and against plaintiff on the common law fraud count. The bench ruled in favor of Weeks and against plaintiff on the claims under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
The court ruled in favor of plaintiff and against GMAC on her claim that the second contract was invalid as to her. On the counterclaim, the court found in favor of GMAC and against Wilburn Adams in the sum of $33,987.79 plus attorney fees on GMAC's claim of a breach of the second contract. The court denied GMAC's request for the replevin of the truck, finding that plaintiff had a superior right to possession due to the first contract. GMAC appeals.
GMAC argues that plaintiff ratified the second contract by keeping the benefits of the contract after she received notice of its purchase by GMAC. Ratification may occur if a party knows of an unauthorized signature but still retains the benefits of the contract (810 ILCS 5/3-403 (West 2000)). According to GMAC, ...