RONALD CRAMPTON, JODY BORGMAN, RENE COUNCIL, SAMANTHA SWEENEY, and CASSIE SWEENEY, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
WILLIAM CRAMPTON and ROBERT CRAMPTON, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit,
Whiteside County, Illinois.Appeal No. 3-16-0402 Circuit No.
15-CH-18 Honorable John L. Hauptman, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McDade and O'Brien concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiffs are two of the decedent's surviving children
(Ronald Crampton and Jody Borgman) and three of her surviving
grandchildren (Rene Council, Samantha Sweeney, and Cassie
Sweeney). They filed suit against William and Robert
Crampton, who are also the decedent's children.
Plaintiffs seek to set aside the decedent's living trust.
They allege that Robert unduly influenced the decedent to
execute estate documents that devised all of her property to
him. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to
section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS
5/2-615 (West 2014)). Their motion argued that plaintiffs
failed to plead facts sufficient to set forth a cause of
action for undue influence. Plaintiffs appeal the Whiteside
County circuit court's order dismissing the complaint.
3 Plaintiffs filed their complaint to set aside the trust on
February 23, 2015. The decedent, Ruth Crampton, passed away
on September 27, 2013. Four children survived her: Ronald
Crampton (plaintiff), Jody Borgman (plaintiff), Robert
Crampton (defendant), and William Crampton (defendant). Two
of Ruth's children, including Loretta Crampton Meeker,
predeceased her; however, Loretta's three surviving
children are also plaintiffs in this case. Plaintiffs
attached Ruth's estate documents to their complaint.
4 Ruth executed her estate documents on January 2, 2013. She
named Robert as her power of attorney, executor, and trustee
of her revocable living trust. She named Jody as Robert's
successor. Ruth's will devised all of her personal
property to Robert, or to Jody if Robert predeceased his
mother. Ruth conveyed the residue of her estate to her trust.
5 On December 17, 2013, Robert, acting as trustee, conveyed
the trust property to himself. On February 10, 2014, Robert
conveyed the former trust property to William by quitclaim
deed. Ruth's other children and grandchildren received
nothing from her estate.
6 Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint on March
28, 2016. It alleged the following relevant facts: Robert
lived with Ruth from 2005 until her death; Ruth depended on
Robert to assist with her healthcare and business matters;
Robert and Ruth shared a joint bank account to which only
Ruth contributed; Robert also had Ruth's card and
personal identification number (PIN) to access her bank
account; as a result of Ruth's reliance on Robert, he
became the dominant party in their relationship; Robert
secured a lawyer's services to prepare estate documents
that devised all of Ruth's property to Robert; Robert sat
next to Ruth when she executed her will, trust, and deed;
Robert exploited his dominant relationship with Ruth in
breach of their fiduciary relationship; Robert exerted undue
influence over Ruth when she executed her estate documents.
7 Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on April 18, 2016.
Although defendants sought dismissal pursuant to section
2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)), they
submitted affidavits in support of their motion. Plaintiffs
responded with counteraffidavits. Defendants stipulated in
the trial court and on appeal that they filed their motion to
dismiss pursuant to section 2-615. Because section 2-615
addresses only facial pleading defects, the
affidavits are irrelevant.
8 The trial court dismissed the amended complaint with
prejudice on June 16, 2016. We reverse the trial court's
10 We review de novo the trial court's order
granting defendants' section 2-615 motion to dismiss.
Wakulich v. Mraz, 203 Ill.2d 223, 228 (2003). A
section 2-615 motion challenges the legal sufficiency of a
complaint based on defects apparent on its face. Marshall
v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill.2d 422, 429 (2006). In
reviewing section 2-615 motions, we accept as true all
well-pled facts and "all inferences that may reasonably
be drawn in the plaintiff's favor." Ferguson v.
City of Chicago, 213 Ill.2d 94, 96-97 (2004). A section
2-615 motion can prevail only where it is clearly apparent
that the plaintiff cannot prove, by any set of facts, the
necessary elements of the action. Canel v. Topinka,
212 Ill.2d 311, 318 (2004).
11 Illinois is a fact-pleading jurisdiction; plaintiffs must
allege facts sufficient to state a legally cognizable cause
of action. Weiss v. Waterhouse Securities, Inc., 208
Ill.2d 439, 451 (2004). Although plaintiffs are not required
to present evidence in the complaint (Chandler v.Illinois Central R.R. Co., 207 Ill.2d 331, 348
(2003)), mere conclusions of law or fact are insufficient.
See Anderson v. Vanden Dorpel, 172 Ill.2d 399, 408
(1996). In determining a complaint's sufficiency, courts
must disregard unsupported conclusions and inferences within
the pleading. Knox College v. Celotex Corp., 88
Ill.2d 407, 426 (1981). ...