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Emma J. Robinson and Latanya Kemp v. Point One Toyota

December 28, 2012

EMMA J. ROBINSON AND LATANYA KEMP,
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS AND CROSS-APPELLEES,
v.
POINT ONE TOYOTA, EVANSTON, DEFENDANT
TOYOTA MOTOR CREDIT CORPORATION AND RIVER OAKS
TOYOTA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 95 M3 3372 Honorable Daniel T. Gillespie, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall

JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Lampkin and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The plaintiffs, Emma J. Robinson and Latanya Kemp, appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County awarding partial summary judgment to the defendants, Toyota Motor Credit Corporation (TMCC) and River Oaks Toyota on the plaintiffs' joint claims under the federal Consumer Leasing Act (15 U.S.C §§1667a, 1667b (1994) (the CLA)). The defendants filed a cross-appeal and a separate appeal challenging the circuit court's jurisdiction.

¶ 2 On appeal, the plaintiffs raise the following issues: (1) the award of summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiffs' joint default penalties claim was error; (2) the circuit court erred when it refused to award the plaintiffs statutory damages on each disclosure violation and failed to award them any statutory damages for non-disclosure violations; (3) the circuit court erred by allowing TMCC to raise a set-off claim for the first time at trial; (4) the circuit court erred when it denied the plaintiffs' request for actual damages; (5) the circuit court erred when it denied the plaintiffs' motion to compel the defendants to answer written discovery and appear for depositions; (6) the circuit court erred by failing to compel the defendants to resolve disagreements with the plaintiffs' attorney's time records and to compel the defendants to disclose their attorneys' time records; (7) the circuit court erred when it failed to consider the uncontroverted affidavits of the plaintiffs' experts and the case law in determining the award of attorney fees. On cross-appeal, the defendants contend that the circuit court erred in granting partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs' joint lease termination and failure to itemize claims. In a separate appeal, the defendants contend that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to award additional attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs because the plaintiffs' motion for additional fees and costs was filed more than 30 days after the final order was entered in the case.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 I. Prior History

¶ 5 The factual background of this case is detailed in the prior opinions of this court and our supreme court. See Robinson v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp., 201 Ill. 2d 403 (2002); Robinson v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp., 315 Ill. App. 3d 1086 (2000). Therefore, we need only recite the facts pertinent to the issues raised in this case.

¶ 6 In 1993, each plaintiff entered into a vehicle leasing agreement with a Toyota dealership: Ms. Robinson with River Oaks and Ms. Kemp with Point-One. The leasing agreements were assigned to TMCC. In 1995, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants, alleging violations of the CLA and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Consumer Fraud Act) (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1992)). The case was dismissed based on a pending class action suit against TMCC in California but was later reinstated in the circuit court.

¶ 7 The plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint alleging violations of the CLA, the Consumer Fraud Act, and the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (815 ILCS 510/1 et seq. (West 1994)). Ms. Kemp's individual claim under the CLA for failure to disclose the actual amount of sales tax owed was also alleged as a breach of contract. The circuit court dismissed the CLA claims on res judicata grounds; the state claims and Ms. Kemp's breach of contract claim were dismissed for failure to state a cause of action.

¶ 8 On appeal from the circuit court's dismissal of the second amended complaint, this court ruled that res judicata barred the plaintiffs' joint CLA claims. We affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of the state claims but reversed the dismissal of the breach of contract claim.

Robinson, 315 Ill. App. 3d 1086. On further review, the supreme court held that the joint CLA claims were not barred by res judicata but agreed that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for violations of the Consumer Fraud Act. Accordingly, the supreme court reversed the judgment of this court and remanded the cause to the circuit court for further proceedings on the CLA counts. Robinson, 201 Ill. 2d at 423.*fn1

¶ 9 II. Circuit Court Proceedings On Remand

¶ 10 The circuit court granted in part TMCC's motion to dismiss the second amended complaint. The plaintiffs then filed a third amended complaint. Pertinent to this appeal, the plaintiffs alleged that the following provisions of the leasing agreement violated the CLA's disclosure requirements: default penalties, voluntary termination of the lease, and itemization of other charges to be paid by the plaintiffs.

¶ 11 Both parties moved for partial summary judgment. Initially, the circuit court denied both motions because of disputed factual issues. After the parties stipulated to all the material facts, on reconsideration, the court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their lease termination and their itemization of other charges claim and Ms. Kemp's individual CLA claim. The defendants' motion for partial summary judgment on those claims was denied. The court then granted the defendants' partial summary judgment motion on the plaintiffs' default provisions claim and denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment as to that claim.

¶ 12 Following an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied the plaintiffs' request for actual damages, except for the sales tax to be refunded to Ms. Kemp and awarded each plaintiff statutory damages in the amount of $1,000, based on the failure to disclose. 15 U.S.C. § 1640 (1994). On April 8, 2011, the court entered an order awarding Ms. Robinson $1,000 and Ms. Kemp $1,596, based on the set-off of the $500 settlement amount she received from Point-One.

¶ 13 On June 10, 2011, the circuit court awarded the plaintiffs $113,280 in attorney fees and costs of $420. The plaintiffs filed their notice of appeal from the June 10, 2011, order on July 7, 2011. The defendants filed separate cross-appeals on July 15, 2011. On July 29, 2011, the circuit court entered an order correcting the amount of the award of attorney fees to $150,780 against the defendants and awarding attorney fees of $780 to the plaintiffs against River Oaks. The defendants filed notices of appeal from the July 29, 2011, order. On November 8, 2011, this court entered an order consolidating the appeals.

¶ 14 ANALYSIS

¶ 15 We first address the jurisdictional issue raised in the defendants' separate appeal.

¶ 16 I. Jurisdiction

¶ 17 The defendants contend that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to award attorney fees and costs in its July 29, 2011, order because the plaintiffs' motion for fees and costs was filed on July 25, 2011, which was more than 30 days after the entry of the June 10, 2011, final judgment order. The plaintiffs respond that the circuit court had jurisdiction to correct a miscalculation it made in its determination of attorney fees and costs award.

¶ 18 Absent a timely-filed posttrial motion, a trial court loses jurisdiction over a case pending before it 30 days after the entry of a final judgment terminating the litigation. Holwell v. Zenith Electronics Corp., 334 Ill. App. 3d 917, 922 (2002). After the expiration of that 30-day period, the trial court lacks the necessary jurisdiction to amend, modify or vacate its judgment. Holwell, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 922. There are recognized exceptions to that jurisdictional rule; a court may at any time modify its judgment to correct a clerical error or matter of form so that the record conforms to the judgment actually rendered. Holwell, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 922. "This power may not, however, be employed to correct judicial errors or supply omitted judicial action." Holwell, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 922. A judicial error occurs when the judge commits an error in performing a judicial function. In re Marriage of Takata, 304 Ill. App. 3d 85, 92 (1999).

¶ 19 The July 29, 2011, order provided in pertinent part as follows:

"1. The Court's June 10, 2011 order is corrected to change the amount of attorney's fees awarded in favor of Plaintiffs and against TMCC and River Oaks from $113,280 to $150,780 based upon the inadvertent omission of 125 hours at $300 per hour.

2. The Court's June 10, 2011 order is further corrected to include an award of attorney's fees in favor of Plaintiffs and against River Oaks in the amount of $780.00 based upon the inadvertent omission of 2.6 hours at $300 per hour."

¶ 20 In Takata, the reviewing court found that the determination of a spouse's net income for the purpose of setting child support was a judicial function; "the judge employs a certain amount of discretion in determining an appropriate and reasonable amount." Takata, 304 Ill. App. 3d at

92. The court held that "a mathematical error in determining a spouse's income is not a clerical error; rather, as it is the product of the judicial function, it is a judicial error." Takata, 304 Ill. App. 3d at 93.

¶ 21 We find the calculation of the amount of the attorney fees award similar to the calculation of a spouse's net income for child support purposes and therefore, a judicial function. Likewise, the circuit court's "inadvertent omission" of the number of hours in its calculation of the attorney fees was a judicial error. Therefore, the exceptions to the jurisdictional rule do not apply, and the circuit court lacked jurisdiction on July 29, 2011, to correct its June 10, 2011, order.

¶ 22The plaintiffs' reliance on General Motors Corp. v. Pappas, 242 Ill. 2d 163 (2011), and City of Chicago v. Scandia Books, Inc., 102 Ill. App. 3d 292 (1981), is misplaced as neither case involved the correction of a judicial error more than 30 days after the entry of a final judgment. In General Motors Corp., the supreme court held that the trial court had authority to award judgment interest after the notice of appeal was filed because the award of interest was incidental to and not part of the judgment itself; it preserved the economic value of the judgment and did not affect or alter the issue on appeal. General Motors, Corp., 242 Ill. 2d at 175. In Scandia Books, Inc., the reviewing court held that the trial court had jurisdiction to amend the judgment even though an appeal was pending because the amendment merely explained the order that was on appeal. Scandia Books, Inc., 102 Ill. App. 3d at 298.

¶ 23 In the alternative, the plaintiffs argue the reinvestment rule applies. Under the reinvestment rule, after a trial court has lost jurisdiction due to the passage of time, the litigants may revest the court with jurisdiction by appearing before it and actively participating in proceedings which are inconsistent with the merits of a prior judgment. Holwell, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 923. "Conduct is deemed to be inconsistent with the merits of a prior judgment if it can reasonably be construed as an indication that the parties did not view the prior order as final and binding." Howell, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 923.

ΒΆ 24 The plaintiffs assert that the defendants' conduct established that they did not consider the June 10, 2011, order to be final and binding. The defendants did not raise a jurisdictional objection to their motion to correct the amount of the attorney fees award. The defendants actively participated in the proceedings by requesting that the judgment be stayed pending appeal and that the bond to be set in the amount of the corrected ...


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