Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 17 M1124511
Honorable Oran F. Whiting, Judge Presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant: Donald S. Rothschild, Brian M.
Dougherty, and Keith R. Krider, of Goldstine, Skrodzki,
Russian, Nemec and Hoff, Ltd., of Burr Ridge, for appellants.
Attorneys for Appellee: Susan Ritacca, of Chicago, for
JUSTICE ELLIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith and Justice Howse
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff Roberto Lopez sued defendants Rendered Services,
Inc. and one of its agents, Hector Lopez, for towing his
vehicle in violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Plaintiff
prevailed at trial. Defendants do not challenge that victory.
But they do appeal the award of attorney fees that followed.
2 Plaintiff persuaded the trial court that a provision in
Chapter 4 of the Vehicle Code allowed him an award of
attorney fees as a prevailing party. Defendants say, first,
that the governing portion of the Vehicle Code is Chapter
18a, which does not permit an award of attorney fees. Second,
defendants say that even if the provision in Chapter 4 were
applicable, on its face it permits an award of attorney fees
only against the property owner who initiated the towing of
the car, and not the company that performed the towing
3 We agree with defendant's second argument and thus need
not reach the first. We reverse the award of attorney fees.
5 Although this case proceeded to a bench trial, defendants
did not include a copy of the trial transcript in the record.
So some of the facts that follow are drawn from the complaint
or the trial court's written order awarding attorney
fees, rather than the actual trial evidence. In any event, we
have more than a sufficient basis, from the trial court's
fee order alone, to resolve this matter.
6 On April 6, 2016, plaintiff parked his vehicle in a private
parking lot at 2804 West Flournoy Street in Chicago. Around
noon, Larry Chalmers, a person with lawful access to
plaintiffs car and who was present at the parking lot, saw a
tow truck operated by defendants "drive over the
curb" and into the parking lot to begin towing
plaintiffs car. Chalmers "stepped in front of the tow
truck to present himself and to notify [defendant Lopez] that
he was willing and able to relocate the vehicle." But
Lopez ignored Chalmers's entreaties and continued on,
nearly running Chalmers over in the process.
7 When plaintiff went to defendants' tow yard to get his
car, he was told it would not be released unless he paid
$218.50. Upon retrieval, plaintiff inspected his car and saw
that the front right bumper had been damaged. Plaintiff took
the car to a repair shop, which determined that the car had
sustained $837.96 in damage.
8 In September 2017, plaintiff filed this lawsuit. Count I
was a claim under section 4- 203(f)(3) of the Vehicle Code
for "Unlawful Removal of Vehicle." See 625 ILCS
5/4-203(f)(3) (West 2016). His theory was that defendants
violated section 4-203(f) by towing away his vehicle even
though a permitted user, Chalmers, was present and willing
and able to move it. Count II was a claim for conversion.
Count III was a claim for detinue.
9 Following a bench trial, the court entered judgment in
favor of plaintiff on count I "for the reasons stated in
open court." The court granted ...