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In re Estate of Cargola

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

February 17, 2017

In re ESTATE OF ANNE M. CARGOLA, Deceased,
v.
Kristen Hoeksema, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Anne M. Cargola, and Diane Briese, Respondents-Appellees. Donna Lynn A. Knorrek, f/k/a Donna Lynn A. Cargola Knorrek, Petitioner-Appellant,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 P 5580 Honorable James G. Riley, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffmann and Justice Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          CUNNINGHAM JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following the circuit court of Cook County's dismissal of her complaint to quiet title, petitioner-appellant, Donna Lynn A. Knorrek (Knorrek) appeals from that dismissal of her claim for adverse possession. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 This matter appears before us following a probate proceeding for the estate of Anne M. Cargola (Cargola). Cargola died intestate on August 29, 2007. Cargola had only two heirs: her two daughters, Knorrek and respondent-appellee, Diane Briese (Briese).

         ¶ 4 On September 27, 2012 Briese filed a complaint, seeking appointment as the administrator of Cargola's estate. On November 1, 2012, Knorrek filed an objection to Briese's complaint and sought appointment of an independent third party as the administrator of the estate. On November 19, 2012, the circuit court appointed respondent-appellee Kristin Hoeksema (Hoeksema) as special administrator for Cargola's estate.

         ¶ 5 At issue in this appeal is Cargola's real property, located at 1 North Braintree Avenue in Schaumburg, Illinois (the property). Cargola purchased the property in 1991. The title and mortgage for the property were both solely in Cargola's name.

         ¶ 6 On July 10, 2013, Knorrek filed a three-count complaint in the circuit court of Cook County for declaratory judgment and to quiet title. Knorrek sought to remove title to the property from the estate of Cargola and to vest title in Knorrek. Count II of the complaint sought to quiet title to the property through adverse possession. On September 10, 2013, Briese filed a motion to dismiss Knorrek's complaint pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)). On January 22, 2014, a hearing was held on Briese's motion. The circuit court granted the motion without prejudice, allowing Knorrek to amend her complaint.

         ¶ 7 On February 20, 2014, Knorrek filed a four-count amended complaint to quiet title for the property. Count II of the amended complaint again sought to quiet title to the property through adverse possession.

         ¶ 8 In that complaint, Knorrek alleged the following. In 1991, she was involved in lengthy and acrimonious divorce proceedings. She sought to purchase the property, but was concerned that her then-husband would attempt to claim an interest in the property. In an effort to prevent further litigation in her divorce proceedings, Knorrek and Cargola made an arrangement regarding the property. They agreed that Cargola would purchase and hold title to the property, but that Knorrek would be the true owner and possessor of the property. Knorrek transferred the down payment funds to Cargola, who then made the necessary down payment to obtain the mortgage, which was in Cargola's name as the sole borrower. Knorrek has resided at the property since 1991. Cargola never resided at the property at any time. After the purchase of the property, Knorrek exclusively paid the mortgage, all utilities, taxes, and other debts and liabilities associated with ownership of the property. Knorrek reimbursed Cargola for any payments she made in relation to the property. In 2001 and 2003, the mortgage for the property was refinanced. During both refinances, both Knorrek and Cargola were listed as borrowers on the note. Knorrek alleged that she and Cargola both mistakenly believed this arrangement allowed Knorrek to be the legal owner of the property.

         ¶ 9 In Count II of her amended complaint, Knorrek requested that the circuit court find that she is the legal owner of the property through adverse possession. Knorrek argued that for a period in excess of 20 years, 1991 through 2014, she had actual possession of the property openly, continuously, adversely, and under a claim of title which is inconsistent with that of Cargola, satisfying the elements of adverse possession pursuant to section 13-101 of the Limitations Act (735 ILCS 5/13-101 (West 2014)). Knorrek claimed she met the hostility element of adverse possession because Cargola never provided her with permission to reside at the property.

         ¶ 10 On March 5, 2014, Briese filed a motion to dismiss Knorrek's amended complaint pursuant to section 2-615 and alleged that Knorrek failed to state a cause of action. In her motion, Briese argued that Count II of Knorrek's amended complaint should be dismissed because Knorrek pled permissive use of the property when she described the agreement with Cargola. Briese argued that this negated the hostility element required for an adverse possession claim.

         ¶ 11 On May 27, 2014, a hearing was held on Briese's motion. The circuit court granted the motion with respect to Counts I and II of Knorrek's complaint, which were dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. The circuit court ...


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