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Mazal v. Arias

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

December 16, 2019

VICTOR AND ELIATH MAZAL, Plaintiffz-Appellants,
v.
JOHANNA ARIAS AND MARCO PINTO, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division. No. 18 CH 006379 Honorable Sanjay Tailor, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE GRIFFIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Hyman and Justice Walker concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GRIFFIN PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 On May 16, 2018, plaintiffs Victor and Eliath Mazal filed a two-count verified complaint against defendants Macro Pinto and Johanna Arias seeking to: (1) quiet title to a 16-foot wide strip of land that runs between the parties' properties in Lincolnwood, Illinois; and (2) enjoin defendants from building a new fence on the property. Plaintiffs' claims were based on alternative theories of adverse possession and a prescriptive easement.

         ¶ 2 The trial court initially entered a temporary restraining order in plaintiffs' favor, but later dismissed their verified complaint with prejudice pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 2018)). The trial court based its decision on the following findings: (1) the 16-foot strip was statutorily dedicated property held by the Village of Lincolnwood in trust for public use as an alleyway; (2) the 20-year limitations period on the recovery of lands did not begin to run until 2008, when the Village vacated its interest in the property; and (3) plaintiffs could prove no set of facts establishing their use or possession of the property for the required 20 years. Plaintiffs' motion to reconsider was denied.

         ¶ 3 Plaintiffs appeal and ask us to reverse the trial court's judgment. Plaintiffs contend that the limitations period on the recovery of lands ran against the Village of Lincolnwood and they can satisfy the 20-year limitations period because: (1) the 16-foot strip never functioned as a public alleyway; and (2) alleyways do not serve a public use. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 On October 5, 2016, plaintiffs purchased a home located at 6618 N. Monticello Ave. in Lincolnwood, Illinois. After defendants purchased the abutting property on April 26, 2018, plaintiffs filed a two-count verified complaint against defendants in the circuit court of Cook County. In their lawsuit filed on May 16, 2018, plaintiffs sought to quiet title to a 16-foot wide strip of land that ran through the parties' backyards and to enjoin defendants from interfering with the property. Plaintiffs' claims were based on alternative theories of adverse possession and a prescriptive easement.

         ¶ 6 Plaintiffs alleged that when they purchased their home, a chain link fence divided the parties' backyard properties lines and the 16-foot strip was on their side of the property. Plaintiffs built a play set for their children within two feet of the fence and claimed that their use and possession of the premises spanned "thirty years." Though they acknowledged that a "decades-old" survey of the land showed that the 16-foot strip was a dedicated public alleyway, plaintiffs alleged that construction of the alleyway "never occurred, and there is no such alleyway running between the properties."

         ¶ 7 On May 24, 2018, the trial court entered a temporary restraining order in plaintiffs' favor and on August 15, 2018, defendants filed a combined motion to dismiss (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2018)) the action pursuant to sections 2-615 (id. § 2-615) and 2-619(a)(9) (id. § 2-619(a)(9)) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. Section 2-615 allows a defendant to seek the dismissal of a claim on the basis that it fails to state a cause of action. Section 2-619(a)(9) provides for dismissal when a claim is barred or defeated by an affirmative matter.

         ¶ 8 Defendants advanced several bases for dismissing plaintiffs' verified complaint pursuant to section 2-615, but the crux of their combined motion was that an affirmative matter defeated the action altogether under section 2-619(a)(9). Defendants argued that the 16-foot strip was statutorily dedicated to the Village of Lincolnwood for use as a public alleyway and as a matter of law, the Village was not subject to the 20-year limitations period on the recovery of lands embodied in section 13-101 of the Limitations Act (735 ILCS 5/13-101 (West 2018)) (section 13-101). Defendants claimed that the limitations period started to run in 2008, when the Village vacated its interest in the property through the adoption of a municipal ordinance (Ordinance No. 2008-2787), and plaintiffs could not establish their use or possession of the property for the required 20 years.

         ¶ 9 Defendants attached several public records to their combined motion to dismiss, including a copy of the original "Lincoln Ave. Gardens" subdivision plat, dated February 11, 1927, and a copy of Ordinance No. 2008-2787. The plat showed the proposed "public alleyway" running through the parties' properties and expressly provided that it was "approved by the President of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Tessville" (Lincolnwood was formerly named Tessville). Ordinance No. 2008-2787 contained an express finding of the board of trustees that the vacation of the 16-foot strip would serve the "public interest" and indicated that upon vacation, title to the property would vest in the abutting landowners in equal eight-foot portions.

         ¶ 10 Plaintiffs filed a response, arguing that the limitations period in section 13-101 ran against the Village some time prior to 2008 because: (1) the 16-foot strip never functioned as a public alleyway; and (2) public alleyways do not serve a public use. Plaintiffs claimed they could satisfy the 20-year time period and asked the trial court to deny defendant's combined motion to dismiss.

         ¶ 11 On January 23, 2019, the trial court dismissed plaintiffs' verified complaint with prejudice pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9). The trial court found that the 16-foot strip was statutorily dedicated property, the limitations period in section 13-101 began to run in 2008, and it was "impossible" for plaintiffs to satisfy the required 20-year ...


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