Appeal from the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. No. 00-L-33 Honorable Mark M. Joy, Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn
Joseph Dietl appeals from the trial court's July 2, 2001, judgment following a bench trial and from the trial court's August 17, 2001, order denying his motion to reconsider. He was ordered to pay Nokomis Quarry Company the sum of $11,501, plus costs. At issue on appeal is whether certain buildings and items were "trade fixtures" that Joseph Dietl could remove without liability at the expiration of his lease. Joseph Dietl also appeals from the trial court's award of compensatory damages.
The background facts of this case sadly remind us that the number of small family farms continues to rapidly decrease. Certain land in Montgomery County was owned by the Dietl family, having been purchased by Joseph Dietl's father. The son grew up in this farm family and took over the farming duties upon his father's 1978 death. On April 28, 1997, Joseph Dietl, as the guardian of the person and estate of his mother, took out a loan secured by the farm. The mortgage was recorded in the Montgomery County circuit court on May 6, 1997.
The mortgage document prepared by Boatmen's National Bank of Central Illinois contained a security interest provision, by which Joseph Dietl granted to the bank a security interest "in all goods now owned or hereafter acquired [that are] intended to be used or are actually used so as to become Fixtures." Additionally, the mortgage defined the premises to include "all improvements and fixtures *** now or hereafter existing or constructed upon the land, including but not limited to buildings and other structures."
Joseph Dietl's mother died in October 1998. He was the only heir.
At some point not specified in the record or the briefs, Joseph Dietl defaulted on the loan. On April 22, 1999, NationsBank, N.A., successor in interest to Boatmen's National Bank of Central Illinois, filed a mortgage foreclosure action against Joseph Dietl. The bank filed a notice of foreclosure, which was published in an area newspaper beginning on May 5, 1999. This notice contained a legal description of the property at issue, which included "all improvements and fixtures *** now or hereafter existing or constructed upon the Land, including but not limited to buildings and other structures." A decree of foreclosure was entered on October 4, 1999, and the property was set for a sheriff's sale on May 17, 2000.
Prior to that sale, notice of the Montgomery County sheriff's sale was published in an area newspaper. That notice set forth the legal description of the real estate at issue and further indicated that the sale included "all buildings and improvements thereon and the tenements, hereditaments[,] and appurtenances thereunto belonging."
Nokomis Quarry Company was the high bidder at the Montgomery County sheriff's sale. On May 19, 2000, the Montgomery County sheriff conveyed the property to Nokomis Quarry Company. This sheriff's deed included the legal description of the farmland, but it did not specifically reference any fixtures or buildings located on the farmland.
At the conclusion of the May 17, 2000, sale, Joseph Dietl informed Nokomis Quarry Company that he had a lease (between himself and his now-deceased mother) to farm the land. A copy of this lease is not included in the record. By agreement, the trial court entered an order on June 13, 2000, modifying the court's award of the possession of the property to Nokomis Quarry Company. In this order, the trial court acknowledged that Joseph Dietl entered into a farm lease with his mother on March 1, 1998, and that he could continue to farm the land until December 31, 2000, at which time he owed Nokomis Quarry Company $8,000 in rent and was required to vacate the premises.
Sometime between May 17, 2000, and December 31, 2000, Joseph Dietl removed the following items from the farm:
(1) Unloading fixtures from the tops of the grain silos
(2) A one-car garage building