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Ally Financial Inc. v. Pira

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

December 5, 2017

ALLY FINANCIAL INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL PIRA, d/b/a/ Michael's Ultimate Detailing & Design, Inc., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 15-LM-1132 Honorable Daniel L. Jasica, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the judgment of the court. Presiding Justice Hudson and Justice Spence concurred in the judgment.

          OPINION

          HUTCHINSON JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Ally Financial Inc., filed a complaint for replevin against defendant, Michael Pira, doing business as Michael's Ultimate Detailing & Design, Inc., seeking possession of a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado. Defendant asserted as an affirmative defense that he had a common-law possessory lien, not only for the cost of the work that had been performed on the vehicle, but also for the storage fees that had accrued after the work was completed. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the sole issue of whether defendant's lien included the storage fees. The trial court found that defendant's lien covered only the charges relating to the work that had been performed on the vehicle, and accordingly it ruled in favor of plaintiff. Defendant now appeals. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 We begin by noting that the appellate record contains no reports of proceedings or bystander's reports. The following facts are therefore derived from the pleadings. Much of our factual recitation is relevant only for jurisdictional purposes.

         ¶ 4 Plaintiff's verified complaint for replevin was filed on June 11, 2015. Plaintiff alleged that Robert Siudak had purchased a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado in March 2013. After Siudak executed an installment contract with the dealer, the dealer assigned its interest in the installment contract to plaintiff, and plaintiff perfected its security interest in the vehicle. Plaintiff alleged that Siudak brought the vehicle to defendant's shop shortly before Siudak filed for bankruptcy, in September 2014. Due to Siudak's nonpayment, and pursuant to the terms of the installment contract, plaintiff asserted its right to possession of the vehicle. However, defendant refused to relinquish possession, demanding full payment of all storage fees in addition to the cost of the work that had been performed on the vehicle.

         ¶ 5 Plaintiff asserted that it was not obligated to pay the storage fees and that it had a superior right to possession of the vehicle, which had a fair market value of $33, 475. Accordingly, plaintiff requested that the trial court enter a judgment granting plaintiff possession of the vehicle, or, in the alternative, an award against defendant in the amount of $33, 475. Plaintiff also requested an award for "[r]easonable attorney's fees, court costs, and for whatever other relief this court deems appropriate."

         ¶ 6 Defendant's answer was accompanied by an affirmative defense. Defendant asserted that he had a common law-possessory lien, for the cost of the work and the storage fees, that took priority over plaintiff's security interest. In an affidavit, defendant attested that Siudak dropped off the vehicle for detailing and minor repairs on June 9, 2014. The work was completed the next day. The charges for the detailing and the repairs amounted to $658. Defendant called Siudak numerous times and left several voice messages. However, Siudak never returned any of the calls, nor did he ever return to pick up the vehicle. Defendant asserted that, as of October 30, 2015, the storage fees amounted to $27, 780, accumulating at a reduced rate of $60 per day (the normal rate was $75 per day).

         ¶ 7 The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff acknowledged that defendant was entitled to the cost of the detailing and the repairs, and it averred that it had offered to make such payment. Plaintiff maintained, however, that defendant's common-law possessory lien did not extend to the storage fees, as the storage did not impart any added value to the vehicle. Defendant, on the other hand, argued that his lien arose by virtue of his contract with Siudak and that he was therefore entitled to the same rights as a common carrier.

         ¶ 8 On February 4, 2016, the trial court ruled on the cross-motions for summary judgment, entering an order that granted plaintiff's motion and denied defendant's motion. The order included a ruling that, "as a matter of law in this case, [defendant's] common law possessory lien covers repair charges, but not storage charges." The order also stated that the matter was "continued for further status" to March 3, 2016.

         ¶ 9 Also on February 4, 2016, the trial court issued an order of replevin directing the Lake County sheriff to take possession of the vehicle and deliver it to plaintiff. However, a handwritten notation stated that execution of the order was stayed through March 3, 2016. Another handwritten notation stated that the order would be executed "upon payment of defendant's common law possessory lien for repair charges."

         ¶ 10 The record reflects that the next four court dates took place on March 3, April 14, May 5, and June 2, 2016. Defendant did not appear in court on any of these dates. On each occasion, the trial court entered an order of replevin. None of these orders contained any handwritten notations or conditions of enforcement.

         ¶ 11 On June 14, 2016, defendant filed a motion for a finding of "friendly contempt." He stated that he desired to "test the validity" of the underlying order of replevin, and he asserted that there was "no direct precedent" on the issue of whether his common-law possessory lien covered the storage fees. Accordingly, defendant requested that the trial court impose a minimal fine for the purpose of facilitating an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(5) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016).

         ¶ 12 Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to defendant's friendly-contempt motion, asserting that defendant needed to post a bond if he wanted to retain possession of the vehicle while the replevin action "proceed[ed] to final judgment and during any subsequent appeal." According to plaintiff, defendant's friendly-contempt motion was nothing more than a procedural ploy aimed at retaining possession of the vehicle without having to post a bond.

         ¶ 13 On October 6, 2016, the trial court entered an order denying defendant's friendly contempt motion. The order noted that defendant's counsel had failed to appear at the hearing that day, as well as the previous hearing, and that the matter was again "continued for status" to November 3, 2016.

         ¶ 14 The record reflects that plaintiff obtained possession of the vehicle after the denial of defendant's friendly-contempt motion. (In its appellate brief, plaintiff states that it "recovered the Vehicle on or about October 21, 2016, through its own recovery company and paid Defendant the total cost of repairs in the amount of $681.00.")

         ¶ 15 On November 3, 2016, the trial court entered an order prepared by plaintiff's counsel that stated: "This matter is hereby dismissed, without prejudice and with leave to reinstate, and without costs to either party."

         ¶ 16 On December 13, 2016, defendant filed a "motion for the entry of a final and appealable order." Defendant acknowledged that he had relinquished possession of the vehicle to plaintiff following the denial of his friendly-contempt motion. He argued, however, that the order dismissing the case on November 3, 2016, was not final and appealable, because it stated that the case was dismissed "without prejudice and with leave to reinstate." Defendant therefore requested that the trial court enter an order "dismissing this case with prejudice." Plaintiff filed a response in opposition, arguing that the trial court lost jurisdiction to alter the order dismissing the case after the passage of 30 days.

         ¶ 17 On February 23, 2017, the trial court granted defendant's motion for the entry of a final and appealable order. It entered an order stating in pertinent part: "This matter is dismissed with prejudice nunc pro tunc to November 3, 2016; this court finding that, due to a scrivener's error, the Nov. 3, 2016, dismissal was entered without prejudice instead of with prejudice."

         ¶ 18 Defendant filed a notice of appeal on March 16, 2017. He stated that he was appealing from the order dated February 23, 2017, dismissing plaintiff's complaint with prejudice, as well as from the order dated February 4, 2016, in ...


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