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Jaworski v. Skassa

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

February 1, 2017

VIOLETTA JAWORSKI, Plaintiff-Appellant,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 15-CH-1411 Honorable Paul M. Fullerton, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hudson and Justice Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Violetta Jaworski, appeals from the dismissal of her claim to quiet title to a garage in her condominium complex. She contends that her claim should not have been dismissed on res judicata grounds, as the prior action, initiated by defendant Danuta Skassa (defendant), did not result in a final judgment or decide the issue of ownership of the garage. Because defendant believes that plaintiff has filed this appeal for improper purposes, defendant asks this court to impose sanctions against plaintiff. For the reasons that follow, we affirm, but we deny defendant's request to impose sanctions.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Defendants Richard Ferrari, Robert Ferrari, and Phillip Ferrari developed the St. Charles condominiums in Bensenville, which complex is comprised of 24 condominiums and 25 garages. When the project was completed, Robert lived in unit 1H. Pursuant to the plat of survey and the declarations, Robert, as the owner of unit 1H, had use of garages 1H and 1HA.

         ¶ 4 Thereafter, unit 1H was conveyed to Regina Sokolowski. However, plaintiff, who lived in unit 2H, alleged that garage 1H was not conveyed to Sokolowski. On December 23, 2013, Sokolowski sold her property to defendant and her husband. On May 21, 2014, the Ferraris sold garage 1H to plaintiff for $6, 500. Approximately one year later, on May 7, 2015, defendant filed a forcible entry and detainer action against plaintiff, seeking possession of garage 1H.

         ¶ 5 At trial on the forcible entry and detainer action, plaintiff advised the court that "we have [a] dispute over garage space, to know who is the rightful owner of the garage space." In response, although defendant initially advised the court that the nature of the claim was "possession only for a garage space, " she later indicated that "ownership is an issue."

         ¶ 6 The trial court entered judgment in defendant's favor. In doing so, the court noted that "what controls here legally is the plat of survey, which is incorporated into the deed." The court noted that "[i]t was never changed, by [plaintiff's] own admission, and that assigns garages designated by the letter to the condominium, also designated by that letter." Accordingly, "[defendant and her husband] are owners of Condominium H[, and] therefore, they are owners of both garages designated by letter H."

         ¶ 7 Although plaintiff was advised of her right to appeal, she filed neither a posttrial motion nor a notice of appeal in the forcible entry and detainer case. Rather, within one month after the court granted defendant possession of the garage, plaintiff filed a complaint to, among other things, quiet title to the garage. Defendant moved to dismiss that case, arguing that res judicata barred plaintiff's cause of action. See 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(4) (West 2014). The trial court granted the motion, and after the other counts in plaintiff's complaint were dismissed, this timely appeal followed.[1]

         ¶ 8 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 At issue in this appeal is whether the dismissal of plaintiff's action on res judicata grounds was proper. We are also asked to consider imposing sanctions against plaintiff for filing this appeal. We address each issue in turn.

         ¶ 10 The first issue we consider is whether the dismissal of plaintiff's action was proper. As noted, defendant moved to dismiss the action pursuant to section 2-619(a)(4) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(4) (West 2014)). A section 2-619(a)(4) motion to dismiss admits the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's allegations but asserts that res judicata defeats the claim presented. Winters v. Wangler, 386 Ill.App.3d 788, 792 (2008). Res judicata precludes the relitigation of claims previously decided if "(1) a final judgment on the merits has been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) an identity of cause of action exists; and (3) the parties or their privies are identical in both actions." Hudson v. City of Chicago, 228 Ill.2d 462, 467 (2008). We review de novo a dismissal pursuant to section 2-619(a)(4). Morris B. Chapman & Associates v. Kitzman, 193 Ill.2d 560, 565 (2000).

         ¶ 11 Plaintiff argues that res judicata should not bar her quiet-title action, because there was no final judgment entered in the forcible entry and detainer action and ...

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