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James L. Sadler and Monica J. Rock Island County, Illinois v. Lynn J. Service

January 26, 2011

JAMES L. SADLER AND MONICA J. ROCK ISLAND COUNTY, ILLINOIS PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
LYNN J. SERVICE,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court SADLER, of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Honorable Frank R. Fuhr, Judge, Presiding. No. 06-L-129

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Carter

PRESIDING JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice O'Brien and Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

The plaintiffs, James L. and Monica J. Sadler, sued the defendant, Lynn J. Service, seeking to recover the principal and interest allegedly due on a promissory note that was executed and delivered on May 5, 1994. After a bench trial, the circuit court ruled that the statute of limitations contained in an amended version of section 13--206 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/13--206 (West 1998)) operated to bar the action. On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that: (1) the court erred when it required the plaintiffs to prove reaffirmation of the debt by clear and convincing evidence; (2) parol evidence was admissible to interpret a blank check written in 2000 to plaintiff James Sadler by the defendant; (3) the court erred when it relied on the defendant's parol evidence but disregarded the plaintiffs' parol evidence regarding the blank check; (4) a statement made in the defendant's 2007 deposition was the equivalent of a written reaffirmation of the debt dating back to 1997; and (5) the reaffirmation of a debt can be made through oral testimony. We affirm.

FACTS

On May 5, 1994, the defendant executed and delivered a promissory note. The note contained the defendant's promise "to pay to the order of James L. or Monica J. Sadler" $29,000, with interest to accrue annually at a rate of 6%.

On May 5, 1995, and May 2, 1996, the defendant wrote two checks to the plaintiffs, each for $1,740, for interest on the note. The plaintiffs kept the checks, which were never paid.

On June 15, 2000, the defendant wrote a blank check to plaintiff James Sadler. The parties disputed the purpose of the blank check. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant intended the check to cover the note's accrued interest. The defendant alleged that she intended the check to cover any costs associated with a golf tournament in which plaintiff James Sadler and the defendant's husband, Kent Service, were participating. No amount was ever filled in on the check, nor was it ever paid.

On December 18, 2006, the plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking to recover the principal and interest allegedly due on the note. During summary judgment proceedings, a question arose over whether the applicable law was section 13--206 of the Code or section 3--118 of the Uniform Commercial Code--Negotiable Instruments (the Uniform Commercial Code) (810 ILCS 5/3--118 (West 1994)). The court stated it was applying a 10-year statute of limitations and denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

During the trial in this case, it was established that the defendant never paid down the principal or interest due on the note. Further, the plaintiffs did not demand payment on the note until 2006.

On December 11, 2009, the circuit court issued its written order. The court found that the amended version of section 13--206 of the Code controlled and considered the evidence in light of that section's 10-year statute of limitations. The court found that the promissory note was payable on demand and that the statute of limitations began to run immediately. The court also found that none of the checks written by the defendant extended the statute of limitations. Because the defendant did not make any payments on the note within 10 years, and because the plaintiffs did not demand payment within that time, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' action was time-barred.

The plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider. In its written order that denied the motion, the circuit court noted that the parties agreed that the 1995 and 1996 checks were not relevant to the issue of whether the 10-year statute of limitations expired prior to the filing of the lawsuit in 2006. The plaintiffs appealed.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, the plaintiffs raise numerous arguments challenging the circuit court's ruling that the action was time-barred. Specifically, the plaintiffs argue that: (1) the court erred when it required the plaintiffs to prove reaffirmation of the debt by clear and convincing evidence; (2) parol evidence was admissible to interpret a blank check written in 2000 to plaintiff James Sadler by the defendant; (3) the court erred when it relied on the defendant's parol evidence but disregarded the plaintiffs' parol evidence regarding the blank check; (4) a statement made in the defendant's 2007 ...


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