Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed December 13, 2012
Mashal v. City of Chicago, 2012 IL 112341
Appellate citation: 408 Ill. App. 3d 817.
JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Garman, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Freeman specially concurred, with opinion.
A group of Chicago taxi drivers complained of the manner in which they were receiving traffic tickets and filed this class action in 2000. The lead plaintiff is Gazi Mashal. Cook County circuit judge Richard Siebel certified them as a class in 2002 and, in 2005, issued a partial summary judgment to the effect that a ticket should be issued to a driver at the scene or placed on the vehicle and that to substitute for this a mailed notice (or “fly-by ticket”) would be contrary to both statute and ordinance. The City, as defendant, had argued that such occurrences were either rare or had happened only if the driver was confrontational or fled. Judge Siebel did not address these factual issues in making his legal ruling.
In 2007, the City sought to decertify the class. By this time, Judge Siebel had retired and had been replaced by Judge Stuart Palmer, who granted the City’s motion to decertify in 2008, concluding that commonality no longer existed, that the City was entitled to a trial for each and every ticket for a determination of the facts of each case, and that the class action approach was no longer appropriate.
Plaintiff Mashal challenged this ruling, setting in motion the series of maneuvers which brought this appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. He contended that Judge Siebel’s initial ruling that “fly-by” tickets were illegal was a “decision on the merits,” which, pursuant to statute, would preclude decertification of the class.
Four questions concerning the “decision on the merits” issue were certified to the appellate court, whose judgment was affirmed by the supreme court in this decision. The first question asked what was a decision on the merits which would preclude decertification. In affirming the appellate court, the supreme court said that there must be a complete determination of liability on a claim based on the facts disclosed by the evidence and which establishes a right to recover in at least one class member, but which is something short of a final judgment.
The other three questions asked whether there would be a lack of authority to decertify in each of three specific situations, and the appellate court answered each question negatively. Its judgment was affirmed as to all of these rulings. The supreme court said that liability which would establish a right to recovery had not yet been determined in this case. The original trial judge did not decide whether the City violated the law by issuing a “fly-by” citation to Mashal or any other driver. Such a determination would have been a decision on the merits, but it did not happen here.
The supreme court declined Mashal’s request to direct the appellate court to consider the propriety of the decertification order at this stage. The cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.