Jaworski v. Skassa (IL)

Summary: The trial court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s Quiet Title action on the grounds of res judicata where a final judgment in a forcible entry and detainer action had been entered.

Jaworski v. Skassa, 411 Ill.Dec. 299, 73 N.E.3d 13 (Ill.App. 2 Dist. 2017).

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Facts: The Ferraris developed the St. Charles condominiums in Bensenville. When the building was finished, Robert Ferrari lived in unit 1H and had use of garages 1H and 1HA. Robert conveyed unit 1H to Regina Sokolowski. Plaintiff Jaworski lives in unit 2H and claimed that Robert did not convey garage 1H to Sokolowski. In 2013, Sokolowski sold her property to defendant Skassa and her husband. In 2014, the Ferraris sold garage 1H to plaintiff Jaworski.

One year after the Ferraris sold the garage to Jaworski, Skassa filed a forcible entry and detainer action, seeking possession of garage 1H. At trial, both parties noted that ownership was an issue. The trial court held in favor of Skassa. Rather than appealing, Jaworski – within one month of the suit – filed a complaint to quiet title. Skassa moved to dismiss the case, arguing that res judicata barred Jaworski’s quiet title action, in that the court had already decided ownership. The trial court granted Skassa’s motion to dismiss the case, and Jaworski appeals.

Holding: Upheld. Using a three factor test, the court determined that res judicata barred the claim. Since the parties were the same in both cases, the court only discussed the first two factors. The first factor was whether a final judgment on the merits had been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction. The court found that the judgment in the forcible entry and detainer claim was final, notwithstanding the fact that forcible entry actions are summary proceedings. The court reasoned that the judgment there was final since it was a determination on the issues that would be final and binding on the parties.

The second factor was whether an identity of cause of action exists. The court found that both causes of action were based on a question of ownership. The court noted that although ownership need not be decided in forcible entry and detainer actions, it was nevertheless decided in the prior case. The court backed this argument by noting that Skassa’s prior claim to possession in the forcible entry and detainer case was based on her claim of title to the garage. Thus, in deciding whether there was a forcible entry, the court was also deciding whether Skassa had title. In concluding that Skassa had title to the garage, the issue of ownership had been decided. Since (1) there was a final judgment on the merits, (2) an identity of cause of action existed, and (3) the parties were identical in both actions, the court held that res judicata barred plaintiff’s action.

The next issue was whether the court should have imposed sanctions against the Jaworski for bringing the appeal. The court concluded that Jaworski’s appeal was not sanctionable since it was not devoid of arguable merit; brought in bad faith; or implicated any desire to harass, delay, or accumulate litigation costs.

The court decided that Jaworski’s quiet title action was barred on the grounds of res judicata due to a prior forcible entry and detainer action wherein the court declared Skassa as owner of the disputed property. Acknowledging that the parties in the two cases were identical, the court used two factors to hold that res judicata barred the case. First, although the forcible entry and detainer action was but a summary proceeding, the judgment was still final. Second, both cases revolved around the same issue concerning ownership of the disputed property. Since these two factors–a prior final judgment and an identity of cause of action–were met, the court held that the claim was barred by res judicata. Finally, the court found no need to sanction the plaintiff for a frivolous appeal, as the issues raised were not devoid of arguable merit.

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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Tue, 07/25/2017 - 2:16pm