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Watts v. Addo Management, LLC

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

January 24, 2018

KENNETH WATTS and GAVIE WOFFORD, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
ADDO MANAGEMENT, L.L.C., BDJ TRUCKING CO., ADRIAN SASCA, Individually, and SENAD MUJKIC, Individually, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, County Department. No. 2015 L 9836 The Honorable Patricia S. Spratt, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE FITZGERALD SMITH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cobbs and Justice Howse concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          FITZGERALD SMITH, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The plaintiffs, Kenneth Watts and Gavie Wofford, appeal from the circuit court's order dismissing their second amended complaint pursuant to section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)) for failure to state a cause of action under the Illinois Wage Payment Collection Act (Wage Act) (820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. (West 2014)). The plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred when, without permitting further discovery, it ruled that, as a matter of law, the Wage Act does not apply to employees who, like Watts and Wofford, provided services outside of the state of Illinois. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On September 28, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a four-count complaint against the defendants, ADDO Management, L.L.C. (ADDO), BDJ Trucking Co. (BDJ), Adrian Sasca, and Senad Mujkic. After that, the plaintiffs amended their complaint twice. The second amended complaint alleged (1) violations of the Wage Act (820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. (West 2014)), (2) breach of contract, (3) unjust enrichment, and (4) quantum meruit. Because this appeal concerns only the dismissal of the Wage Act count, we set forth only those facts relevant to the resolution of that issue.

         ¶ 4 In their second amended complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that they were residents of Illinois and, at all relevant times, "employees" of the defendants, as that term is defined under section 2 of the Wage Act (820 ILCS 115/2 (West 2014)). They further alleged that the defendant Sasca is the owner of ADDO, a limited liability company with its principal place of business in Grandville, Michigan, and that the defendant Mujkic, who resides in Illinois, is the president and owner of BDJ, a company with its principal place of business in Illinois. The plaintiffs further alleged that at all relevant times Sasca (as owner and on behalf of ADDO) and Mujkic (for and on behalf of BDJ) had an agreement under which Sasca and ADDO supplied truck drivers and tractor units to BDJ for the transportation of freight, as a motor carrier, in return for compensation.

         ¶ 5 The plaintiffs, who are residents of Illinois, alleged that they drove trucks operated by ADDO for the benefit of BDJ. The plaintiffs alleged that before they were hired as truck drivers for ADDO, both of them were interviewed by Sasca, at BDJ's facility in Niles, Illinois. Sasca agreed to pay them wages for team driving at a rate of 46 cents per mile, with each plaintiff receiving 23 cents per mile. After that, the plaintiffs were regularly dispatched from BDJ's trucking facility in Niles, Illinois. For each trip, the plaintiffs completed trip reports to document the start and end dates, mileage, and trailer numbers and provided the reports to Sasca and BDJ at the end of each trip. BDJ provided the plaintiffs with fuel cards in the name of BDJ for fuel used on the trips. The plaintiffs alleged that BDJ assigned the trip destinations for freight pickup and that both BDJ and ADDO communicated the destinations for freight delivery and remained in regular contact with the plaintiffs during the trip, by way of cell phone. The plaintiffs received compensation through regular (weekly or biweekly) payroll deposits into their respective checking accounts from ADDO.

         ¶ 6 The plaintiffs further alleged that between March 20 and April 10, 2015, they made a total of three round trips to Portland, Oregon, for the defendants, driving 12, 714 miles, for which they should have received $2924.22 in payment. The plaintiffs contended that they did not receive these "wages, " from either ADDO or BDJ, as a result of which the plaintiff, Wofford, resigned.

         ¶ 7 The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants qualified as "employers" under the Wage Payment Act (see 820 ILCS 115/2, 13 (West 2014)) and were obligated to pay them $2924.44 in "wages" and that by refusing to do so they violated sections 3, 5, and 13 of the Wage Act (820 ILCS 115/3, 5, 13 (West 2014)).

         ¶ 8 The defendants Sasca and ADDO filed a combined section 2-619.1 motion under the Code to dismiss all counts of the plaintiffs' complaint. The defendants Mujkic and BDJ did the same. With respect to the Wage Act (820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. (West 2014)), the defendants Sasca and ADDO argued that the cause of action should be dismissed pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)) because the Wage Act does not provide a cause of action against out-of-state employers, like themselves. In addition, Sasca and ADDO argued that the Wage Act does not apply to the plaintiffs' three round-trips to Oregon, since the work performed was primarily done outside of Illinois. The defendants, Mujkic and BDJ made the same argument in their separate section 2-615 motion to dismiss (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)) the Wage Act count. In addition, they asserted that they were not "employers" under the Wage Act because under the allegations in the plaintiffs' second amended complaint, the plaintiffs were hired, managed and regularly paid by Sasca and ADDO and, aside from using BDJ's trucking facility in Niles, Illinois, had no direct or indirect dealings with Mujkic and BDJ. In addition, Mujkic and BDJ argued that they had no control over the plaintiffs' routes, nor any authority to fire the plaintiffs. In support, Mujkic attached an affidavit attesting to the same.

         ¶ 9 The trial court granted the defendants' section 2-615 motions to dismiss (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)), finding that the facts alleged in the plaintiffs' second amended complaint were insufficient to state a cause of action under the Wage Act (820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. (West 2014)). In doing so, the court took judicial notice of the fact that the distance to Portland is 2110 miles and, of that, only 168 miles would be driven within Illinois, which was approximately 8% of the route. As such, at 46 cents per mile as team drivers, or 23 cents per mile for each, only $231.84 of the wages claimed by the plaintiffs respectively would be for work performed in Illinois. Under these alleged facts, the trial court concluded that an insufficient amount of the work was performed in Illinois to bring the plaintiffs' claims within the purview of the Wage Act (820 ILCS 115/1 (West 2014)). The court therefore found that the plaintiffs could not allege any set of facts to state a claim upon which they could recover and therefore dismissed the Wage Act count with prejudice.[1] The plaintiffs now appeal.

         ¶ 10 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 It is axiomatic that a section 2-615 motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint based on defects apparent on its face. Doe-3 v. McLean County Unit District No. 5 Board of Directors, 2012 IL 112479, ¶ 15. In reviewing the grant of a section 2-615 motion to dismiss, we must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and taking all well-pleaded facts and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from those facts as true, are sufficient to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Doe-3, 2012 IL 112479, ¶ 16; Winters v. Wangler, 386 Ill.App.3d 788, 793 (2008); see also In re Estate of Powell, 2014 IL 115997, ¶ 12. In ruling on a section 2-615 motion, the court may only consider (1) those facts apparent from the face of the pleadings, (2) matters subject to judicial notice, and (3) judicial admissions in the record. Gillen v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 215 Ill.2d 381, 385 (2005). "[A] cause of action should not be dismissed pursuant to section 2-615 unless it is clearly apparent that no set of facts can ...


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