The tenants in Mayle v. Urban Realty Works, LLC, 2020 IL App (1st) 191018 (March 26, 2020) appealed from a judgment dismissing their complaint against multiple defendants for alleged violations of Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”) and for conversion of their personal property during an eviction. The Illinois Appellate Court dismissed their appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the trial court’s orders did not dispose of all the claims against all the defendants.
The tenants alleged that the defendants violated the RLTO by unlawfully entering their apartment to serve them with a five-day notice to terminate the tenancy. The tenants also allege that shortly thereafter defendants again unlawfully entered the apartment and removed and disposed of all their personal property. Seven of the eight defendants moved to dismiss the RLTO claims, alleging they were time-barred, and to dismiss the conversion claim for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motions and this appeal followed.
Although neither party contested jurisdiction, the Appellate Court first looked to Supreme Court Rule 304 to determine whether it had jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Under Rule 304, a party may appeal a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the parties or claims in a suit where multiple parties or multiple claims for relief are involved but only if the trial court has made an express finding that there is no just reason for delaying either enforcement or appeal or both. In the absence of such a finding, any such judgment is not enforceable or appealable.
The Appellate Court found that while the remaining defendant had not been served with process and did not file an appearance, he was still a “party” for purposes of Rule 304’s requirements. Thus, in order for the dismissal to be appealable, the trial court would have needed to make the requisite findings, which it did not. The Appellate Court noted that in some cases the presence of a nonserved defendant does not render an order unappealable, even in the absence of Rule 304 findings. In those cases, the dismissal of the complaint with respect to one defendant disposes of the case with respect to all of the unserved defendants. For instance, courts have found jurisdiction when the served defendants and the nonserved defendants represented a “unified tortfeasor” such that the dismissal order dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Additionally, appellate jurisdiction has been found where the trial court’s order indicated that it intended to dismiss the complaint in its entirety as to all defendants.
In the case before it, while the Court found that the trial court’s order dismissing the RLTO claims with prejudice based on the statute of limitations could be considered the type of “all-encompassing dismissal order” found sufficient to confer jurisdiction in the absence of Rule 304 findings, the dismissal orders on the conversion claims were expressly directed at particular defendants and were not “all-encompassing.” Further, there was no allegation that the remaining defendant was acting as an agent or employee of any of the other defendant such that liability of the master would be based on liability of the servant or of any other relationship between the defendants that would merit an exception to Rule 304. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.Download Related Document