Appeal from the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. No. 01-L-27 Honorable Mark M. Joy, Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Chapman
The plaintiffs, Troy Russell and other AFL-CIO union journeymen, appeal from the circuit court's dismissal of their complaint alleging that the defendant, Kinney Contractors, Inc., falsely imprisoned them while they visited the defendant's premises to submit applications for employment in response to the defendant's advertisement of employment opportunities. The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2002)), finding that the state common law action of false imprisonment was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (29 U.S.C. *151 et seq. (2000)), as announced by the United States Supreme Court in San Diego Building Trades Council, Millmen's Union, Local 2020 v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775, 79 S. Ct. 773 (1959). The sole issue for review is whether the circuit court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint. We reverse and remand.
The defendant is a construction company incorporated in the State of Illinois. The defendant disseminated written materials advertising that it was accepting applications for employment from laborers and workers of various crafts. On May 15, 2001, the plaintiffs entered onto the premises of the defendant and sought to apply for the employment advertised. Before the plaintiffs had entered the defendant's business office, James R. Kinney, part owner of the defendant corporation, closed the gate of the fenced premises and summoned law enforcement.
On September 4, 2001, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that the defendant's closing of the gate to its fenced premises blocked their exit and held them in custody without reasonable or probable cause until law enforcement arrived. The plaintiffs claimed that they were lawfully on the defendant's premises at the time they were held, that their purpose was to submit applications for employment, and that the defendant had not informed them that they were unwelcome. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant's actions were intentional, causing them to suffer great indignity, humiliation, and disgrace. The plaintiffs claimed that the intentional nature of the defendant's actions entitled them to punitive damages.
On February 14, 2002, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code. The defendant's motion was accompanied by an affidavit from Mr. Kinney. The defendant argued that the incident referenced in the plaintiffs' complaint was connected to their attempt to enforce rights under the NLRA (29 U.S.C. *158 (2000)) and that the subject matter, therefore, was a labor dispute preempted by the NLRA and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In support of its contention that the plaintiffs' claims were preempted, the defendant claimed that the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) had filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB three weeks after the filing of the plaintiffs' complaint. The IUOE's unfair labor practice charge alleged that the defendant had interfered with, threatened, coerced, and discriminated against the plaintiffs by engaging in the very same conduct complained of in the plaintiffs' complaint, in violation of sections 8(a)(1) and (a)(3) of the NLRA (29 U.S.C. **158(a)(1), (a)(3) (2000)). The NLRB regional director found in favor of the defendant, and the IUOE appealed the decision to the NLRB general counsel. The defendant claimed that several local unions of the IUOE and the Laborers International Union of North America (Laborers) later filed a representation proceeding with the NLRB seeking to become the collective bargaining representatives of its employees in October 2001 and that the NLRB had advised the parties that the petition would not be entertained until the IUOE's earlier allegations were resolved.
The defendant relied upon the United States Supreme Court's decision in Garmon, which held that state and federal courts must defer to the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB where the activity complained of is "arguably" subject to section 7 or 8 of the NLRA (29 U.S.C. **157, 158 (2000)), with exceptions arising only where the activity at issue is of a peripheral concern to federal labor law or where the activity touches upon interests deeply rooted in local feeling and responsibility. Garmon, 359 U.S. at 243-46, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775, 79 S. Ct. at 779-80. Additionally, the defendant urged the circuit court to distinguish the allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint from the facts involved in Farmer v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, Local 25, 430 U.S. 290, 51 L. Ed. 2d 338, 97 S. Ct. 1056 (1977), in which the United States Supreme Court held that a union member's action for the intentional infliction of emotional distress was not preempted under Garmon due in part to the intentional and outrageousness of the conduct alleged. Claiming that the allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint were subject to section 8 of the NLRA and that they did not qualify as a recognized exception to the preemption doctrine, the defendant argued that the plaintiffs' complaint was preempted by the NLRA, requiring a dismissal.
After hearing argument from the parties in support of their respective positions, the circuit court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on April 1, 2002. In granting the defendant's motion, the court found that, unless an exception exists, the preemption doctrine announced by the United States Supreme Court in Garmon controls. The court believed that the conduct complained of by the plaintiffs was an integral part of the unfair labor practices charge filed with the NLRB and did not satisfy the "peripheral concern" exception articulated in Garmon. The court, however, found it more difficult to determine whether the plaintiffs' allegations satisfied the second Garmon exception involving interests "deeply rooted in local feeling and responsibility" (Garmon, 359 U.S. at 244, 3 L. Ed. 2d 775, 79 S. Ct. at 779) and a state's substantial interest in regulating conduct harmful to its citizens. Nevertheless, the court concluded that because the conduct alleged by the plaintiffs in their complaint did not involve violence or threats of violence and did not result in arrests, it did not approach the outrageous conduct considered in Farmer. Accordingly, the court found that an exception to the preemption doctrine did not exist, and it dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint.
The plaintiffs filed a timely notice of appeal.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that the court erred as a matter of law in dismissing their complaint because their claimBthat the defendant intentionally and falsely imprisoned themBwas not preempted by the NLRA.
A motion to dismiss made under section 2-619 admits the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint but raises defects, defenses, or other affirmative matters that appear on the face of the complaint or that are established by external submissions acting to defeat the allegations of the complaint. Krilich v. American National Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago, 334 Ill. App. 3d 563, 569-70, 778 N.E.2d 1153, 1160 (2002). Proceedings under section 2-619 allow for the dismissal of a plaintiff's complaint after the circuit court has considered issues of law or easily proven issues of fact. Krilich, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 570, 778 N.E.2d at 1160. Appellate review of an order granting a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619 is de novo. American National Bank & Trust Co. v. Thomas, 288 Ill. App. 3d 343, 346, 680 N.E.2d 480, 482 (1997).
Section 2-619(a)(1) provides for a dismissal when "the court does not have jurisdiction of the subject matter of the action." 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(1) (West 2002). The presence or absence of subject matter jurisdiction is determined from the nature of the case and the relief sought. Kemling v. Country Mutual Insurance Co., 107 Ill. App. 3d 516, 520, 437 N.E.2d 1253, 1256 (1982). Illinois circuit courts are courts of general jurisdiction having original jurisdiction over all justiciable controversies (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, *9), except (1) cases over which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction (The Moses Taylor v. Hammons, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 411, 416, 18 L. Ed. 397 (1867)) (the judicial power of the federal government is exclusive in some cases and, under the United States Constitution, may be made exclusive in all other cases at the election and discretion of Congress)), (2) matters committed to administrative tribunals (see Ill. ...