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Pompa v. Swanson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

May 6, 2013

JOSEPH POMPA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PAUL SWANSON, Defendant-Appellee.

Held [*]

Plaintiff’s complaint alleging defamation per se and intentional interference with the expectation of a retirement gift was properly dismissed for failure to state a cause of action, since there was no indication the statements defendant made about the work plaintiff performed for the trade union to which they belonged were intended to defame plaintiff, the statements were an expression of defendant’s nonactionable opinion during a union meeting on whether to give plaintiff a gift, and they were subject to a qualified privilege, and Illinois courts have not extended the tort of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage to include interference with an expected retirement gift.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County, No. 11-L-548; the Hon. Review Judith M. Brawka, Judge, presiding.

Stanley H. Jakala and Barbara J. Bell, both of Berwyn, for appellant.

Gary K. Mickey, Bernard K. Weiler, and Jessica L. Drahos, all of Mickey, Wilson, Weiler, Renzi & Anderson, P.C., of Aurora, for appellee.

Justices Hudson and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

SCHOSTOK JUSTICE

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Joseph Pompa, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Kane County dismissing with prejudice his two-count, amended complaint filed against defendant, Paul Swanson. Plaintiff contends that he stated a claim for defamation per se in count I and a claim for intentional interference with the expectation of a retirement gift in count II. Because plaintiff failed to state a claim for either defamation per se or intentional interference with the expectation of a retirement gift, we affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The following facts are derived from the allegations in count I of plaintiff's amended complaint. Plaintiff was employed by Carpenters Union 839 from 1979 to 2010. During his tenure, plaintiff was elected five times to the office of financial secretary and served a total of 20 years in that position. He also worked several years as a business manager for the union. While employed for the union, plaintiff had a "good reputation, " was a "highly valued employee and union officer, " and performed all of his job responsibilities in a "satisfactory manner."

¶ 4 Defendant also worked for the union and served one term as president. Defendant expressed his dislike of plaintiff to both plaintiff and other union employees. Defendant also was jealous of plaintiff's influence in union matters, particularly elections.

¶ 5 In 2009, defendant, in an effort to undermine certain union election candidates supported by plaintiff, circulated a flyer among union members. The flyer stated that plaintiff was paid a salary based on 80 hours per month when the average financial secretary's salary was based on 25 to 30 hours per month. In reality, plaintiff's salary was based on 80 hours per month because that was the amount of time he actually spent on that job per month. In the 2009 election, only two of the six candidates supported by defendant were elected. This angered defendant, who continued to refuse to speak to plaintiff.

¶ 6 On or about September 30, 2010, plaintiff decided to retire. The union, in appreciation for work performed by its full-time employees, would, on a "regular basis, " provide those employees with substantial retirement "gifts." For example, six prior employees received retirement gifts ranging from a weekend at Lake Geneva, with all expenses paid, to $30, 000, consisting of money from the union and the proceeds from a retirement party.

ΒΆ 7 On or about October 8, 2010, the executive board met for the purpose of discussing plaintiff's "retirement gift." Defendant attended the meeting in his capacity as a business representative. Defendant had no duty to speak at the meeting about ...


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