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Greenside Properties, LLC v. Peoples Gas Light and Coke Co.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

November 28, 2017

GREENSIDE PROPERTIES, LLC, on Behalf of Itself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PEOPLES GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court Of Cook County No. 15 CH 439 The Honorable Diane J. Larsen, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pucinski and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          NEVILLE PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Greenside Properties, LLC (Greenside), filed a complaint charging Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (Peoples Gas) with billing Greenside for services provided long after Greenside asked Peoples Gas to terminate services. The Cook County circuit court dismissed the complaint, finding that the claim fell under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Commerce Commission (Commission). We affirm the circuit court's judgment.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In 2016, Greenside filed a complaint against Peoples Gas, basing its claims on theories of fraud and deceptive trade practices. Greenside alleged that it managed a property on 102nd Street in Chicago and it arranged for Peoples Gas to provide natural gas service for the property. Greenside leased the property to a tenant.

         ¶ 4 In the complaint, Greenside explained that when Greenside leases a property it manages, it cancels the request for service from Peoples Gas and informs the tenant that the tenant must arrange to have Peoples Gas continue supplying gas to the property for the tenant. Greenside followed its usual procedure with the property on 102nd Street. In November 2013, Greenside requested a termination of services from Peoples Gas for the 102nd Street property. Peoples Gas sent a bill to Greenside for the 102nd Street property at the end of October 2013.

         ¶ 5 Greenside alleged that it heard nothing further from Peoples Gas about the property until June 2014, when Peoples Gas sent Greenside a bill for $1809.69 for gas used at the 102nd Street property. Greenside alleged that Peoples Gas generated bills for the 102nd Street property every month from October 2013 through June 2014 but it did not send the bills to Greenside. Peoples Gas never informed Greenside that Peoples Gas failed to terminate Greenside's services at the 102nd Street property, despite Greenside's request.

         ¶ 6 Greenside alleged that it experienced similar problems with several other properties it managed, including a property on Woodlawn Avenue. The Woodlawn property housed three separately metered units. In November 2013, Greenside asked Peoples Gas to terminate its request for service to the basement unit. Peoples Gas sent Greenside a bill in October 2013 for the basement unit, and Greenside heard nothing further from Peoples Gas about service to the basement unit until June 2014. In June 2014, Peoples Gas sent Greenside a bill in the amount of $1151.37 for service to the basement unit for the period from October 2013 through June 2014. Greenside alleged that Peoples Gas had generated bills for the unit but it did not send the bills to Greenside and it never informed Greenside that it refused to honor Greenside's request for termination of service to the basement unit.

         ¶ 7 Greenside alleged that "[i]f Greenside does not pay a bill for these impermissible charges, Peoples Gas refuses to subsequently connect services at any other Greenside property and continues to send bills to Greenside indicating that it owes a past due balance." Because the problem occurred at several properties Greenside managed or owned, Greenside concluded that the improper posttermination billings occurred "[d]ue to a systematic error in Peoples Gas's billing, " which caused Peoples Gas to generate bills for properties but not to send the bills to the property managers who had requested termination of services to those properties. Greenside sought to have the court certify a class of property managers and owners who requested termination of services from Peoples Gas and to whom Peoples Gas sent a bill for services provided after the requested termination date. Greenside sought reimbursement of all amounts improperly billed following the termination requests, together with "consequential damages such as needing to pay security deposits, not being able to initiate service on properties, and expending additional time, energy, and resources addressing Peoples Gas's unlawful billing."

         ¶ 8 Peoples Gas moved to dismiss the complaint under section 2-619(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a) (West 2016)), arguing that the Illinois Commerce Commission had jurisdiction over the claim. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. Greenside now appeals.

         ¶ 9 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 10 We review de novo the dismissal of a complaint under section 2-619(a) of the Code. DeLuna v. Burciaga, 223 Ill.2d 49, 59 (2006). The Public Utilities Act (Act) (220 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (West 2012)) establishes that the Commission "shall have general supervision of all public utilities *** and shall keep itself informed as to the manner and method in which the business is conducted. It shall examine those public utilities *** with respect to the adequacy, security and accommodation afforded by their service [and] also with respect to their compliance with this Act and any other law, with the orders of the Commission and with the charter and franchise requirements." 220 ILCS 5/4-101 (West 2012). "[T]he Commission has the exclusive responsibility to 'see that the provisions of the Constitution and statutes of this State affecting public utilities, the enforcement of which is not specifically vested in some other officer or tribunal, are enforced and obeyed, and that violations thereof are promptly prosecuted.' "" Commonwealth Edison Co. v. City of Warrenville, 288 Ill.App.3d 373, 377-78 (1997) (quoting 220 ILCS 5/4-201 (West 1994)). "Thus, the legislature has given the Commission broad powers, so that the Commission on its own initiative can promulgate orders, rules or regulations fixing adequate service standards and requiring adequate facilities." Sheffler v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 2011 IL 110166, ¶ 40.

         ¶ 11 The Act accords jurisdiction to the circuit court for some claims ...


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