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Harvest Church of Our Lord v. the City of East St. Louis

February 10, 2011

HARVEST CHURCH OF OUR LORD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE CITY OF EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 07-L-89

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Lloyd A. Cueto, Judge, presiding.

Illinois Court of Appeals, District 5

NOTICE Decision filed 02/10/11.

The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Peti tion for Rehearing or th e disposition of the same.

JUSTICE WEXSTTEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Chapman and Justice Goldenhersh concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

The plaintiff, Harvest Church of Our Lord, filed an action against the defendant, the City of East St. Louis, Illinois (the City), for the wrongful demolition of property, pursuant to section 1-4-7 of the Illinois Municipal Code (Municipal Code) (65 ILCS 5/1-4-7 (West 2006)). The City filed a motion for a summary judgment, contending that the plaintiff's suit was barred by the one-year statute of limitations found in section 8-101(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/8-101(a) (West 2006)). The circuit court denied the City's motion for a summary judgment but certified three questions for appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994). We conclude that the one-year statute of limitations found in section 8-101(a) of the Tort Immunity Act does not apply to bar the plaintiff's wrongful-demolition action against the City.

FACTS

On February 13, 2007, the plaintiff filed its complaint against the City, alleging that the City improperly demolished its church building located at 1101 State Street in East St. Louis and failed to account for the proceeds of the sale of property, which included bricks, hardwood, oak floors, and other materials. The City filed a motion for a summary judgment, arguing that because the demolition had occurred prior to January 15, 2005, and the plaintiff did not file its claim until February 13, 2007, the plaintiff was barred by the one-year statute of limitations found in section 8-101(a) of the Tort Immunity Act. The plaintiff responded to the City's motion for a summary judgment, arguing that its complaint set forth an action based upon the City's wrongful demolition of its property, pursuant to section 1-4-7 of the Municipal Code, an action excluded from the Tort Immunity Act, and that therefore the Tort Immunity Act's statute of limitations did not apply. On May 27, 2009, the circuit court concluded that a five-year statute of limitations found in section 13-205 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-205 (West 2006)), as opposed to the one-year limitations period contained in the Tort Immunity Act, applied to the plaintiff's action, and the court denied the City's motion for a summary judgment.

On June 25, 2009, the City filed a motion to certify three questions of law for interlocutory appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994). On November 30, 2009, the circuit court found that the questions of law involved substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. Accordingly, the circuit court granted the City's motion and certified the following questions of law:

"A. Does the one year statute of limitations contained in 745 ILCS 10/8-101 apply to a cause of action for damages brought pursuant to Section 1-4-7 of the Illinois Municipal Code?

B. Does the language contained in 745 ILCS 10/2-101 stating that '[n]othing in this Act affects the liability, if any, of a local public entity or public employee, based on: . . . Section 1-4-7 of the "Illinois Municipal Code" . . . .' alter or eliminate the application of the one year statute of limitations contained in 745 ILCS 10/8-101 to Plaintiff's Complaint[?]

C. Is Plaintiff's cause of action alleged in the complaint barred by the one-year limitations period contained in 745 ILCS 10/8-101[?]"

On December 14, 2009, the City filed an application for leave to appeal, which this court granted on January 8, 2010.

ANALYSIS

The plaintiff argues that because this action is brought pursuant to section 1-4-7 of the Municipal Code, it is exempt from the immunities provided by the Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/2-101(e) (West 2006)) and that, therefore, it is also exempted from the one-year statute of limitations provision found in section 8-101(a) of the Tort Immunity Act. The plaintiff argues that because its action seeks to recover damages for an injury done to property, the five-year statute of limitations set forth in section 13-205 of the Code of Civil Procedure applies. 735 ILCS 5/13-205 (West 2006) ("[A]ctions *** to recover damages for an injury done to property, real or personal, or to recover the possession of personal ...


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