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Premier Title Company v. Donahue

March 01, 2002

PREMIER TITLE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DUANE DONAHUE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 00--SC--136 Honorable Michael T. Caldwell, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer

Released for publication March 13, 2002.

PREMIER TITLE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DUANE DONAHUE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 00--SC--136 Honorable Michael T. Caldwell, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer

Defendant, Duane Donahue, appeals from a series of orders entered by the circuit court of McHenry County. Defendant first assigns error in the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, Premier Title Company. Defendant next contends that the court erred in denying his motion for summary judgment. Finally, defendant argues that the trial court improperly denied his motion for sanctions. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff acted as the closing agent for a real estate transaction in which defendant was the seller. The closing occurred on August 8, 1997. At the time of the closing, real estate taxes were unpaid on the property for 1995. The first installment due in 1996 was unpaid as well. Plaintiff noted on its title commitment that defendant's 1995 real estate taxes had been sold and the first installment of the 1996 taxes were past due.

This was unacceptable to the buyer. Hence, plaintiff and defendant entered into an indemnity agreement whereby defendant would place $3,500 in an escrow with plaintiff and plaintiff would issue a title insurance policy. The unpaid taxes were listed as exceptions in the agreement. The agreement required plaintiff to remove these exceptions by August 21, 1997. Upon the removal of the exceptions, any funds remaining were to be disbursed to defendant.

Plaintiff redeemed the 1995 real estate taxes and reimbursed itself from the escrow. Plaintiff then returned the balance of the funds to defendant. The first installment of the 1996 taxes had not yet been paid. Plaintiff subsequently paid the first installment of the 1996 taxes pursuant to the title insurance policy it had issued. Plaintiff requested that defendant tender $1,189.72 to cover this expense. Defendant refused to comply.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a small claims action to recoup this sum. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted plaintiff's motion and denied defendant's. Defendant also moved for sanctions, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 137 (155 Ill. 2d R. 137), alleging that plaintiff failed to provide notice of its motion for leave to file its summary judgment motion and failed to notify defendant that the date originally set for trial had been stricken. Defendant asserts that, as a result, he prepared for trial on the original date and traveled nearly 500 miles to attend court that day. The trial court denied this motion.

ANALYSIS

Determining whether the trial court's resolution of the summary judgment motions was proper requires us to construe the contract that created the escrow. Because of the posture of this case, the granting of one of the parties' summary judgment motion entails the denial of the other's. Accordingly, we will not address the motions separately.

We review de novo a trial court's grant of summary judgment. Corona v. Malm, 315 Ill. App. 3d 692, 694 (2000). Summary judgment is appropriate only if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Stewart v. Jones, 318 Ill. App. 3d 552, 557-58 (2001). The interpretation of a contract is a question of law and therefore may properly be decided on ...


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