from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Stark
County, Illinois, Circuit No. 12-L-2, Honorable Michael P.
McCuskey, Judge, Presiding.
HOLDRIDGE JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Wright and Carter concurred in the
judgment, with opinion.
1 Russell E. Jackson appeals from an order of the circuit
court of Stark County denying his motion for summary judgment
and granting a cross-motion by his sister, Cheryl Jackson,
for summary judgment. In granting her cross-motion, the court
held that Cheryl had acquired a one- fifth interest in the
family farm by way of a gift from their father, Dean Jackson.
The court held that Cheryl had acquired the one-fifth
interest as a gift from Dean when he executed a purchase
agreement for the property in question on which he listed
each his children and himself as purchasers. Cheryl
maintained that, even though her name was not included as a
grantee when the deed was delivered many years later, she
nonetheless held an equitable interest in the property.
Russell maintained in his motion for summary judgment that
whatever gift Dean may have intended when the purchase
agreement was executed in 1997 was incomplete and subject to
revocation at any time prior to delivery of the deed. The
trial court agreed with Cheryl and granted summary judgment
to her. Russell appeals from that judgment.
3 Dean and his wife Irma had four children: Barry, Russell,
Cheryl, and Janet. Dean was by all accounts a very successful
farmer. In addition to several hundred acres he owned
outright, he farmed several hundred additional acres under
various agreements for purchase. In 1970, Barry joined Dean
in the farming operation, and Russell joined them in 1978.
4 In 1977, Dean negotiated an agreement to purchase 320 acres
of farmland from Margaret J. Dixon for $1, 334, 000 to be
paid with interest in annual installments until 1997, when
the balance would be paid and a warranty deed would be issued
by the seller. The land came to be known as "the Dixon
320." The purchase agreement listed Dean and each of his
four adult children as purchasers. On April 1, 1977, Dean
brought the agreement to each of the four and instructed each
to sign it. It is undisputed that none of the children had
any role in procuring the Dixon 320. The terms of the
Agreement required each purchaser to "first make
payments, and perform the covenants herein mentioned"
before the seller would convey title to the land.
5 After executing the purchase agreement, Dean farmed the
Dixon 320 along with Barry and Russell. The grain harvested
from the Dixon 320 was commingled with grain from other farms
owned or controlled by the Jacksons, so it was impossible to
determine what cash proceeds were generated by any specific
acreage. Each year, Dean would deposit the proceeds from the
farming operation into a savings account at the Wyoming Bank
and Trust Co. in Wyoming, Illinois, which was titled
"DBR Farm Account." That account was jointly owned
by Dean, Barry, and Russell. Each year Dean would distribute
enough money from the DBR account into Barry's and
Russell's individual checking accounts to allow them to
each pay one-third of the annual payment to Margaret Dixon,
with Dean paying the other one-third. Dean, Barry, and
Russell took net income from the DBR account for their
personal living expenses. Neither Janet nor Cheryl ever
received money from the DBR account or made any payments
pursuant to the Dixon320 purchase agreement.
6 On March 9, 1992, an addendum to the purchase agreement was
executed, which decreased the annual payment from $50, 000 to
$35, 000 and extended the completion date from 1997 to 2009.
As with the original agreement, Dean negotiated the addendum
and then took it to each of his four children for their
signatures. Russell testified that he believed that at the
time the addendum was executed, it was Dean's intent to
take Janet and Cheryl off the agreement, due to their lack of
participation in the farming of the Dixon 320 and their lack
of contribution to the annual payment. Barry testified that
he also believed that the two sisters would not receive an
interest in the Dixon 320 but "were going to get an
equivalent value of that acreage somewhere along the way when
it was paid for."
7 After the addendum was executed, the arrangement regarding
the Dixon 320 continued as before, with Dean, Barry, and
Russell participating in the farming and making the annual
payment. Shortly after the addendum was executed, Dean began
to turn more of the day-to-day operations over to Russell.
8 In 1995, Barry was involved in divorce proceedings, and
Dean decided to decrease Barry's involvement in the
farming operations. This resulted in a reduction in
Barry's income share of the farm partnership. Despite his
decreased role in the farming operations, Barry continued to
pay one-third of the payments on the Dixon 320 purchase
agreement until 2007. By the late 1990s, Dean was no longer
involved in the operation. Dean's mental condition began
to deteriorate around the time of his eighty-third birthday
in 2004. Within a year, he no longer recognized people and
would forget how to get home. By this time, Russell was in
complete control of the partnership operations.
9 On February 6, 2007, Barry executed a deed conveying his
"undivided interest" in the Dixon 320 to Dean and
Irma, husband and wife, as tenants in common.
10 On March 13, 2009, Margaret Dixon executed a warranty deed
to the Dixon 320 to Russell E. Jackson. Margaret would later
testify that the deed was executed with Russell as the only
grantee pursuant to the specific instruction of Dean. Russell
signed the tax revenue sheet (PTAX) and caused the deed to be
recorded. Russell did not inform Cheryl of the existence of
11 Dean died in May 2011. Shortly thereafter, Barry went to
the courthouse and discovered that the Dixon 320 had been
conveyed to Russell alone in 2009. Sometime in 2012, Barry
told Cheryl about the deed. Barry then brought suit against
the DBR Jackson Partnership, as well as Russell, Debra, and
Irma Jean individually. Barry's complaint sought an
accounting for all the partnership operations and a portion
of partnership assets. One of the counts in the complaint
concerned the Dixon 320 transaction. On November 8, 2013,
Cheryl intervened filing a counter- claim against Russell
regarding the Dixon 320 transaction, claiming either an
equitable interest in the property, or in the alternative,
seeking the imposition of a constructive trust over a
one-fifth interest in the property. On competing motions for
summary judgment, the trial court entered judgment for Cheryl
and against Russell, finding that 1) Cheryl had been excluded
from possession of the Dixon 320 and the proceeds therefrom
since the inception of the agreement with Margaret Dixon in
1977, 2) Cheryl had not participated in making payments on
the purchase agreement or the addendum, 3) ...