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Hawkins v. Voss

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

April 9, 2015

KATHLEEN T. HAWKINS, Not in Her Individual Capacity but as the Trustee of the Kathleen T. Hawkins Trust, u/t/a Dated December 12, 2002, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
WAYNE VOSS, MARK VOSS, and TIM VOSS, d/b/a Voss Brothers Action Auction Associates, Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Monroe County. No. 11-L-24. Honorable Dennis B. Doyle, Judge, presiding.

For Appellant: Jay M. Huetsch, Adams & Huetsch, Waterloo, IL.

For Appellees: Timothy A. Gutknecht, Stumpf & Gutknecht, P.C., Columbia, IL.

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

OPINION

Page 1234

Richard P. Goldenhersh, Justice.

[¶1] This case concerns an auction of real estate. Plaintiff, Kathleen T. Hawkins, entered

Page 1235

into an oral agreement with defendants, Wayne Voss, Mark Voss, and Tim Voss, in which defendants agreed to sell plaintiff's home and provide the documents necessary to complete the sale. Plaintiff's home was part of plaintiff's own revocable trust to which she was the trustee. After defendants procured successful buyers for plaintiff's home, but before plaintiff conveyed her home, the buyers reneged on the purchase.

[¶2] Plaintiff brought suit against defendants, Wayne Voss, Mark Voss, and Tim Voss, alleging breach of contract, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty for defendants' failure to provide plaintiff a disclosure form to give to the buyers of plaintiff's home as required by the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act (Act) (765 ILCS 77/1 et seq. (West 2010)). Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings asserting that plaintiff was acting as a fiduciary in the course of the administration of a trust when she engaged in the sale of her trust real estate, and was, therefore, exempt from the disclosure form requirement pursuant to an exemption in the Act (765 ILCS 77/15 (West 2010)).

[¶3] The trial court found that plaintiff was not required to comply with the disclosure form requirement, and, therefore, defendants' alleged failure to provide the disclosure form was not a breach of contract or fiduciary duty and not negligence. Plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied. Plaintiff then filed a timely notice of appeal. We affirm.

[¶4] BACKGROUND

[¶5] Plaintiff, Kathleen T. Hawkins, established a revocable trust in December 2002. Plaintiff was named the grantor, trustee, and sole primary beneficiary of the trust, and her children were named as contingent beneficiaries. Plaintiff transferred her home into the trust sometime in 2002.

[¶6] Plaintiff alleges that on or about August 19, 2006, plaintiff entered into an oral agreement with defendants, Wayne Voss, Mark Voss, and Tim Voss, under which defendants agreed to provide auction services to sell plaintiff's trust real estate. Plaintiff further alleges that defendants agreed to provide plaintiff with an auction contract for the sale of the real estate along with " other documents reasonably incident thereto in order to effect the sale of such real estate in the event [d]efendants procured a successful bidder."

[¶7] On August 19, 2006, defendants held an auction and procured buyers for plaintiff's home. Defendants then procured an auction contract for purchase and sale of real estate between plaintiff and the buyers, which provided for a closing date of September 19, 2006. Prior to closing, the buyers reneged on the purchase of plaintiff's real estate after not having received a copy of the disclosure form as required by the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act (765 ILCS 77/1 et seq. (West 2010)).

[¶8] Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against defendants, not in her individual capacity but as trustee of the Kathleen T. Hawkins Trust, u/t/a December 12, 2002. Plaintiff alleged the facts stated above and sued defendants for breach of contract, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty for defendants' failure to provide plaintiff with the disclosure form to give the buyers. Plaintiff alleged the disclosure form should have been included in the documents defendants agreed to provide plaintiff in order to execute the sale of plaintiff's home.

[¶9] Defendants responded and filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings asserting that section 15 of the Act exempts from the disclosure form requirement "

Page 1236

[t]ransfers by a fiduciary in the course of the administration of a decedent's estate, guardianship, conservatorship, or trust." 765 ILCS 77/15(3) (West 2010). Defendants argued they had no duty to provide a disclosure form to plaintiff because the duty to provide the disclosure form does not apply to trustees acting as fiduciaries in the course of the administration of a trust, and, therefore, does not apply to plaintiff, who was selling her trust real estate as the trustee of her own trust. The trial court granted defendants' motion on all counts. Plaintiff then filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied. Plaintiff timely appealed.

[¶10] ANALYSIS

[¶11] The single issue raised on appeal concerns whether defendants were required to provide a disclosure form for plaintiff to give the buyers as mandated by the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act (765 ILCS 77/1 et seq. (West 2010)). Plaintiff argues the trial court erred when it granted defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings after finding defendants owed no statutory duty to provide plaintiff with a disclosure form by reason that plaintiff herself was not required to comply with the statute pursuant to an exemption in the Act. Defendants contend the trial court's judgment should be affirmed. For the following reasons, we agree with defendants and affirm.

[¶12] Because this case turns on an issue of statutory construction, our review is de novo. Carter v. Ill. Workers' Comp. Comm'n, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130151WC, ¶ 17, 11 N.E.3d 478, 381 Ill.Dec. 847. The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. Carter, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130151WC, ¶ 18, 11 N.E.3d 478. The language used in the statute is usually the best indicator of what the legislature intended. Carter, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130151WC, ¶ 18, 11 N.E.3d 478.

[¶13] Each undefined word in the statute must be given its common and popularly understood meaning. Carter, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130151WC, ¶ 18, 11 N.E.3d 478. Words and phrases must be considered in light of other relevant provisions of the statute rather than viewed in isolation. Carter, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130151WC, ¶ 18, 11 N.E.3d 478. If the statute's language leaves uncertainty as to how it should be interpreted, the court may look beyond the language employed and consider the purpose behind the law and the evils the law was designed to remedy. Carter, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130151WC, ¶ 18, 11 N.E.3d 478. However, ...


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