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The Village of Bolingbrook v. Illinois-American Water Co.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 13, 2019

THE VILLAGE OF BOLINGBROOK, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ILLINOIS-AMERICAN WATER COMPANY, an Illinois Corporation, and AMERICAN LAKE WATER COMPANY, an Illinois Corporation, Defendants-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Circuit No. 10-CH-6838 Honorable Raymond E. Rossi, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Mark P. Rotatori, Mark W. DeMonte, Nicole C. Henning, and Elizabeth E. Manning, of Jones Day, of Chicago, for appellants.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kenneth M. Florey and M. Neal Smith, of Robbins Schwartz Nicholas Lifton & Taylor, Ltd., of Bolingbrook, for appellee.

          JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Holdridge concurred in the judgment and opinion. Presiding Justice Schmidt dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          CARTER JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The plaintiff, the Village of Bolingbrook (Village), filed a breach of contract claim against the defendants, Illinois-American Water Company and American Lake Water Company. Following an appeal to this court, in which this court held the circuit court of Will County did not have subject-matter jurisdiction and vacated the circuit court's rulings (Village of Bolingbrook v. Illinois-American Water Co., 2016 IL App (3d) 150425-U), the plaintiff filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss its claim pursuant to section 2-1009 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1009 (West 2016)). The trial court granted the plaintiffs motion. Defendants appeal, arguing the trial court did not have the authority or jurisdiction to enter an order granting the voluntary dismissal.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 On November 2, 2010, the Village filed a breach of contract claim against defendants in the circuit court of Will County. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing the complaint was insufficient to state a claim and that the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) had exclusive jurisdiction over the Village's claim so that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. On April 5, 2011, the trial court denied defendants' motion to dismiss. The parties filed motions for summary judgment, with defendants again arguing the ICC had exclusive jurisdiction over the Village's claim. On January 7, 2015, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Village in part, finding defendants were in breach of the parties' water delivery contract from 2004 through 2008. On February 5, 2015, defendants motioned the trial court to reconsider its ruling, again arguing, among other things, that the ICC had exclusive jurisdiction and the trial court had no authority to enter the order granting partial summary judgment in favor of the Village. On May 7, 2015, the trial court entered a written order indicating that defendant's motion to reconsider was "granted in part and denied in part for the reasons stated in open court on May 7, 2015 (at 10:00) with a written order to follow." The trial court denied the motion to reconsider in regard to its finding of a breach of contract but found that the amount of the Village's damages should be determined by the ICC. On May 19, 2015, the trial court entered a four-page written "ruling on motion to reconsider," indicating its finding that the trial court had jurisdiction to decide the issue of whether a breach of contract had occurred was to stand but the issue of damages should be presented by the parties to the ICC.

         ¶ 4 The Village appealed to this court, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling that its damages should be adjudicated before the ICC. Defendants also appealed to this court, arguing the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the claim because the ICC had exclusive jurisdiction over the entirety of the claim. Specifically, defendants indicated on the notice of appeal that they were appealing from the order entered on May 19, 2015, and "all prior opinions, orders, and rulings subsumed therein, including those addressing jurisdiction." The defendants also stated in the notice of appeal that they were requesting a reversal, or partial reversal, of the trial court's January 7, February 5, and May 19, 2015, rulings. This court found that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the Village's claim because the ICC had exclusive jurisdiction, held the trial court's rulings were void, vacated the trial court's rulings, and determined that this court was "left without jurisdiction and [could] only dismiss the appeal." Bolingbrook, 2016 IL App (3d) 150425-U, ¶¶ 2, 13, 19-20. This court's order was filed on June 2, 2016, and the mandate was issued on November 8, 2016.

         ¶ 5 On May 30, 2017, the Village filed its claim against defendants with the ICC. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss that claim, arguing it was time-barred by the statute of limitations.

         ¶ 6 On June 26, 2017, in the circuit court, the Village filed a "motion to voluntarily dismiss, without prejudice" pursuant to section 2-1009 of the Code. In the motion, the Village indicated it was seeking the dismissal without prejudice "so as to proceed with its case before the Illinois Commerce Commission" and agreed to pay defendants' court costs. In response, defendants opposed the Village's motion to voluntarily dismiss, arguing there was no case to dismiss because this court had involuntary dismissed the complaint on appeal and because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the order because it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the claim. The trial court granted the Village's motion to voluntarily dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-1009 of the Code.

         ¶ 7 Defendants appealed.

         ¶ 8 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 On appeal in this case, defendants argue that (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the Village's motion for a voluntary dismissal because it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the Village's claim, (2) the trial court violated this court's mandate where this court held "the trial court d[id] not have jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs compliant" and determined that the trial court's rulings were void, and (3) the trial court did not have the authority to grant the Village's request for a "voluntary" dismissal of the complaint ...


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