Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Jury’s Verdict and Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict Order

The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed the decision of a Cook County Circuit Court judge in a dispute that arose over a rental property. Randy Franks entered into a commercial lease agreement with Sheldon Broder. Franks was leasing a property to use as a retail store. Franks paid Broder a security deposit of $4,012 and monthly rent of $2,300 plus one-third of the real estate taxes for the property. The lease agreement was made on March 30, 1996. The rent was raised to $3,900 in 2004. Franks made his rent payments on time for the entire term of the lease.

On Nov. 28, 2006, Franks sent a letter to Broder stating that he planned to end the lease on Jan. 15, 2007. Franks also asked if Broder would allow the use of his security deposit ($4,012) to cover the remaining 1 ½ months of rent. Broder responded that the lease stated that the security deposit could not be applied toward the rent and required Franks to pay the rent for the remaining part of the lease. 

Franks paid Broder the December 2006 rent and then informed Broder that he would be out of the country in January. Franks and Broder agreed to allow the use of the space for storage through Feb. 15, 2007. 

On Jan. 14, 2007, a maintenance crew hired by Franks, cleaned up the property, but left behind some of Franks’s personal property.

On Jan. 15, 2007, Broder sent Franks an e-mail stating that Franks’s personal property would be removed from the store if it was still there on Jan. 22, 2007.  On Jan. 18, 2007, Broder sent Franks another e-mail telling him that the cleaning crew would arrive on Jan. 19, 2007 and would dispose of any remaining property belonging to Franks.  On Jan. 20, 2007, Broder removed  all of Franks’s remaining personal property and changed the locks.

Franks then filed a lawsuit claiming breach of contract, conversion and wrongful eviction. A jury trial resulted; at the close, Broder filed a motion for directed finding. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Franks on the breach of contract claim and in favor of Broder on the conversion and wrongful eviction claims. 

The trial judge entered judgment on the verdict and denied the motion for directed finding. Broder then filed a post-trial motion requesting that the court set aside the jury’s verdict. Franks filed a motion requesting the imposition of sanctions against Broder. The trial judge denied Franks’s motion for sanctions, granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) in favor of Broder and awarded Broder attorney fees. Franks appealed.

Franks argued that the circuit court erred in granting the judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Franks argued that the court could not grant a JNOV because it had already denied Broder’s motion for directed finding and allowed the case to go to the jury.

The Illinois Appellate Court rejected this argument, noting that under 735 ILCS 5/2-1202(b), the court is able to enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict even if it would have been the duty for the court to grant a directed finding, but no motion for such a finding was filed or a motion was filed and previously denied.

The panel then also stated that Franks failed to provide the panel with the report of the trial proceedings or an acceptable substitute. As a result, the appellate court could not review Franks’s argument as to whether Broder was entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict and had to presume the trial court’s holdings had sufficient factual and legal basis. Therefore, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the trial judge.

Randy Franks v. Sheldon Broder, 2013 IL App. (1st) 113311-Q (June 25, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been representing individuals and businesses for commercial litigation matters for more than 37 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Orland Park, Chicago (North Park), Chicago (Pulaski Park), Chicago (Andersonville), Chicago (Lincoln Square), Melrose Park, Elmhurst, Villa Park, Burr Ridge, Hickory Hills, Alsip, Chicago (Roseland), Chicago (Washington Heights), Harvey and Midlothian, Ill.

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