Order affirmed and cause remanded.
JUSTICE COCCIA delivered the opinion of the court:
This appeal is from Judge Berman's order denying defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's action at law, charging defendant with tortious interference with its contract to operate a laundry room facility in the Loch Lomond Apartments, on the basis of res judicata. Defendant appeals pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304 (107 Ill.2d R. 304(a)).
Although the sole issue before us is the propriety of that ruling, a review of the very convoluted procedural history of the legal relationship of these parties, which gave rise to two previous appeals, is pertinent to the disposition of the issues raised herein.
Plaintiff, Best Coin-Op, Inc. (Best Coin), pursuant to a written agreement, operated laundry room facilities in a 176-unit residential building. The agreement provided for a 10-year initial term, from November 1977 to March 1988, with an optional seven-year extension. In 1979, the apartments were converted to condominiums under the name Old Willow Falls Condominium Association (Old Willow Falls). Plaintiff continued to operate the laundry room under the terms of the agreement. On March 31, 1983, Old Willow Falls notified plaintiff that the agreement had terminated by operation of law when the condominium conversion occurred. It ordered plaintiff to remove its equipment within 10 days. Plaintiff refused and notified Old Willow Falls, through its attorney, that legal action would be taken if plaintiff were ousted from the premises. Sometime between June 1 and June 27, 1983, Old Willow Falls disconnected the machines.
On June 19, 1983, plaintiff filed a complaint against Old Willow Falls in the circuit court of Cook County, chancery division, requesting injunctive relief and specific performance of the "lease" agreement. Plaintiff alleged that by its express terms, the contract was binding upon Old Willow Falls, as successor in interest to the original lessor, and that plaintiff had been illegally evicted from the premises. Best Coin sought a mandatory order requiring reconnection of its equipment, preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting Old Willow Falls from interfering with its rights under the agreement, an order directing Old Willow Falls to perform according to the terms of the lease, and lost profits sustained during the interruption of its possession of the laundry room. Plaintiff also filed an emergency motion seeking reconnection of its equipment, a temporary restraining order, and a preliminary injunction to preserve the status quo pending a final hearing on the merits.
In July 1983, Paul F. Ilg Supply Company, appellant herein, petitioned
Old Willow Falls moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the following alternative grounds: (1) that the agreement in question was not a lease, and the complaint therefore failed to state a cause of action; and (2) that if it was a lease, plaintiff was itself in breach and not entitled to equitable relief. Ilg filed its own motion to dismiss, alleging that (1) Best Coin's complaint failed to state a cause of action for breach of a lease; (2) the agreement by its terms required any dispute to be first submitted to arbitration, which had not been done, and (3) plaintiff had breached its own agreement and was not entitled to equitable relief. In its memorandum in support of this motion, Ilg argued that by bringing this lawsuit in contravention of the arbitration clause, plaintiff was guilty of "unclean hands" and could not avail itself of injunctive relief. Ilg also maintained that the alleged lease was in reality a license because it was expressly assignable and because it did not manifest the lessee's "exclusive possession" or specify the exact "extent and bounds" of the premises.
Prior to a hearing on the petition for a preliminary injunction, the trial court ruled that the matter would be held in abeyance pending arbitration. However, at the parties' request, Judge Joseph M. Wosik, the chancery judge presiding, heard arguments on that issue as well as on the issue of whether plaintiff had established its entitlement to preliminary injunctive relief. On August 15, 1983, the following colloquy occurred:
Judge Wosik declined a request by Mr. O'Brien to explain the grounds upon which the complaint was dismissed. On August 17, 1983, the following order was entered:
At plaintiff's insistence, the order further provided:
Plaintiff, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 307 (107 Ill.2d R. 307), appealed to this court only that portion of Judge Wosik's August 17 order denying its request for a temporary restraining order. (Best Coin-Op, Inc. v. Old Willow Falls Condominium Association (1983), 120 Ill.App.3d 830, 458 N.E.2d 998 (hereinafter Coin-Op I).) Old Willow Falls filed a petition to dismiss the appeal, arguing, inter alia, that the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint operated as a final judgment on the merits and that there was no longer an underlying complaint on which the motion for a preliminary injunction was based and from which an interlocutory appeal could be taken. The motion to dismiss the appeal was taken with the case.
Plaintiff argued that the trial court's denial of preliminary injunctive relief was based on an erroneous interpretation of the contract as precluding a preliminary injunction pending arbitration. Paragraph 13 of the agreement between Best Coin and Loch Lomond Apartments provided:
Plaintiff maintained that paragraph 10 gave it a right to a temporary restraining order to maintain the status quo until a decision of the arbitrators. Ilg, also a party to the appeal, filed a separate brief in which it argued that (1) the denial of the temporary restraining order was not erroneous because the contract provided for arbitration as the exclusive remedy for disputes arising therefrom and (2) Best Coin did not meet the legal requirements for a preliminary injunction, including a showing of irreparable injury and of an inadequate remedy at law. Inter alia, Ilg maintained that plaintiff's loss of profits could be easily measured on the basis of either the liquidated damages clause of the contract or past intake from the machines, should the arbitrator determine that Old Willow Falls was in breach, and that an arbitrator's award of money damages would be enforceable by court order.
In Coin-Op I, this court found it unnecessary to resolve the apparent contradiction between the two contractual provisions in order to dispose of the question before it on interlocutory appeal, i.e., whether the trial court had erroneously denied plaintiff temporary injunctive relief. We found that Best Coin had failed to establish its entitlement to a preliminary injunction because it had an adequate remedy at law. Holding that the trial court did not err in denying plaintiff's petition, we stated:
We also noted that the only issue before us was whether a temporary injunction was warranted, and that we found it unnecessary to speculate as to whether money damages were adequate for any future harm plaintiff would suffer and whether money damages or a permanent injunction
Plaintiff never appealed the portion of the August 17, 1983, order dismissing its complaint, and having opted to stand on its complaint, never attempted to amend it. Nor did it move to vacate any portion of the order. However, while the above appeal (Coin-Op I) was pending, plaintiff on September 2, 1983, filed a complaint against Ilg in the circuit court of Cook County, law division, for tortious interference with contract. The complaint alleged that Ilg, knowing of the contractual relationship between plaintiff and Old Willow Falls, contacted Old Willow Falls "for the purpose of inducing [the] Association to breach plaintiff's lease and enter into a lease with Ilg." It further alleged that as a result of certain inducements offered by Ilg to Old Willow Falls, including more favorable renewal terms and a higher percentage of gross receipts paid to the lessor, Old Willow Falls breached its lease with plaintiff and entered into a new lease with Ilg. Plaintiff requested $202,356 in compensatory damages, based on the "12 years remaining" on the lease at the time of the alleged breach, and $100,000 in punitive damages.
Ilg filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that the claim was barred by res judicata. In support of its motion, defendant argued that as intervenor in the chancery action, it had been a full party to that litigation. Plaintiff's entire complaint had been dismissed, and the order of dismissal recited plaintiff's waiver of an opportunity to amend his complaint, although plaintiff could have chosen to amend it to add claims against Ilg. Therefore, Ilg maintained, the order of August 17, 1983, operated as a res judicata bar to the second lawsuit. On February 29, 1984, Judge Lester D. Foreman issued the following order:
During the same six-month period following Judge Wosik's order, plaintiff also attempted to seek arbitration of its dispute with Old Willow Falls. On September 1, 1983, it filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. Old Willow Falls raised written objections to this demand, arguing that (1) it was not a party to the
On April 16, 1984, Old Willow Falls filed a motion before Judge Wosik to permanently stay the arbitration proceedings, arguing that the judge's previous order, dismissing plaintiff's complaint with prejudice, operated as a final adjudication of its dispute with Best Coin. After reviewing the briefs of the parties, Judge Wosik presided at a hearing on the motion to stay arbitration on June 12, 1984, at which the following colloquy occurred:
The court then entered the following order:
Plaintiff appealed the June 12, 1984, order to this court, contending that the trial court erred in stating that its August 17, 1983, order was a final adjudication on the merits. (Best Coin-Op, Inc. v. Old Willow Falls Condominium Association (1987), 158 Ill.App.3d 492, 511 N.E.2d 649 (hereinafter Coin-Op II).) We held that the trial court had not so erred. Nor had it erred by permanently staying arbitration proceedings. As we observed in Coin-Op II, Supreme Court Rule 273 (107 Ill.2d R. 273) clearly provides that unless an order of dismissal specifies otherwise, an involuntary dismissal other than for lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, or failure to join an indispensable party is deemed an adjudication on the merits. As the dismissal of plaintiff's chancery action did not fall into any of these three categories, we saw no reason why this rule should not apply. (Best Coin-Op, Inc. v. Old Willow Falls Condominium Association (1987), 158 Ill.App.3d 492, 494, 511 N.E.2d 649, 651.) We further stated:
Our decision in Coin-Op II was filed May 8, 1987. Proceedings in plaintiff's action at law had been continued for the duration of the appeal from the chancery case, and during consideration of a motion for rehearing, which was denied. In the interim, in January 1986, Ilg filed a motion with the trial court to consolidate the law case with the chancery case, making the following allegations in support of this motion: (1) Best
On May 19, 1987, defendant filed a second motion to dismiss plaintiff's entire complaint on res judicata grounds, relying on this court's opinion in Coin-Op II. Defendant argued that as an intervening defendant in the chancery action, it was entitled to the full benefits of the final adjudication on the merits rendered in that case. In response, plaintiff maintained that its action for tortious interference with contract was a separate and distinct cause of action and that, consequently, the dismissal of its action for equitable relief had no res judicata effect on the case at bar. Moreover, to deny it an opportunity to pursue a remedy at law would result in a situation where it was wronged without a remedy. Following substitution of attorneys for the plaintiff, the case was reassigned to Judge Edwin M. Berman, who heard arguments on defendant's motion on January 26, 1988. After reviewing the procedural history of the case, Judge Berman concluded that he could not find, based on this court's opinion in Coin-Op II, that a final adjudication on the merits in plaintiff's case against Old Willow Falls, for equitable relief, necessarily operated as a res judicata bar to plaintiff's separately filed tortious interference claim against Ilg, for money damages. Judge Berman further stated that he believed this question, not having been specifically addressed in Coin-Op II, should be referred to this court for disposition. He then denied defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint in an order that was made final and appealable. From that order, defendant now appeals.
Initially, we begin by reaffirming our holdings in Coin-Op I and Coin-Op II. First, the trial court in the chancery case was correct in denying plaintiff temporary injunctive relief because an adequate remedy at law existed for any interruption in plaintiff's possession of the premises pending final resolution of the underlying issue, namely, whether plaintiff was entitled to possession by virtue of an enforceable contractual right against Old Willow Falls. Secondly, the involuntary dismissal
Defendant first contends that the doctrine of res judicata bars plaintiff's complaint at law because there is an identity of both parties and claims in the two lawsuits, as required for the doctrine to apply. Defendant maintains that plaintiff's claims for specific performance of a contract and for injunctive relief, in the first action, and its claim for tortious interference with the same contract, in the second suit, are simply different theories of recovery grounded in a common core of operative facts relating to the termination of plaintiff's possession of a laundry room. Thus, Ilg argues, the two lawsuits actually involve the same claim or cause of action for res judicata purposes, and accordingly, plaintiff's tort action must be barred.
• 1, 2 The doctrine of res judicata, also known as "estoppel by judgment," provides that a final judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and, as to them, constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. (Housing Authority v. YMCA (1984), 101 Ill.2d 246, 251, 461 N.E.2d 959, 961-62.) The doctrine is not limited, where the cause of action and the parties are the same, to those matters which were actually litigated and resolved in a prior suit (Baird & Warner, Inc. v. Addison Industrial Park, Inc. (1979), 70 Ill.App.3d 59, 65, 387 N.E.2d 831, 838), but also extends to any matters which might have been raised in
• 3, 4 The doctrine of res judicata is founded upon the important public policy principles of judicial economy and consistency (Morris v. Union Oil Co. (1981), 96 Ill.App.3d 148, 154, 421 N.E.2d 278, 283), and upon the equity of preventing harassment of a defendant by a multiplicity of lawsuits (Baird & Warner, Inc. v. Addison Industrial Park, Inc. (1979), 70 Ill.App.3d 59, 64, 387 N.E.2d 831, 837). However, it is axiomatic that where either res judicata or collateral estoppel is raised as a bar to an action, the burden of establishing its applicability is on the party relying on it. (Patzner v. Baise (1986), 144 Ill.App.3d 42, 44, 494 N.E.2d 178, 180; Rotogravure Service, Inc. v. R.W. Borrowdale Co. (1979), 77 Ill.App.3d 518, 525, 395 N.E.2d 1143, 1149.) The party raising either defense must show with clarity and certainty the parties, the precise issues, and the judgment of the former action. (Kedzierski v. Kedzierski (1967), 86 Ill.App.2d 264, 268, 229 N.E.2d 919, 921.) Moreover, equity dictates that the doctrine of res judicata will not be applied technically so as to create inequitable and unjust results. (Benton v. Smith (1987), 157 Ill.App.3d 847, 856, 510 N.E.2d 952, 957-58; Rotogravure Service, Inc. v. R.W. Borrowdale Co. (1979), 77 Ill.App.3d 518, 524, 395 N.E.2d 1143, 1148-49.) The doctrine should only be applied as fairness and justice require, and only to facts and conditions as they existed when the judgment was entered. Rotogravure Service, Inc. v. R.W. Borrowdale Co. (1979), 77 Ill.App.3d 518, 526, 395 N.E.2d 1143, 1149.
• 5, 6 The essential elements of res judicata are (1) an identity of parties or their privies in the two suits; (2) an identity of causes of action in the earlier and the later suit; and (3) a final judgment on the merits in the earlier suit. (Pfeiffer v. William Wrigley Jr. Co. (1985), 139 Ill.App.3d 320, 322, 484 N.E.2d 1187, 1189; Torres v. Rebarchak (7th Cir.1987), 814 F.2d 1219, 1222.) Our opinion in Coin-Op II established with certainty that the involuntary dismissal of plaintiff's complaint in the chancery action, expressing plaintiff's desire to stand on its complaint and not to plead over, and neither appealed nor vacated, was a final judgment on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction. There is also an identity of parties in both suits. Defendant Ilg, although
Initially, we observe that there is no question that plaintiff could have amended its original chancery complaint to include a claim against Old Willow Falls for money damages for breach of contract. Likewise, once Ilg had intervened in the suit, plaintiff could have filed a claim against Ilg for tortious interference with that contract within the context of the original litigation. Our circuit courts have "original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters" (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 9), and the presence or absence of a justiciable matter determines jurisdiction, not the presence or absence of an adequate remedy at law. Therefore, all of these claims properly could have been brought in, and heard by, the chancery court, which was also a court of competent jurisdiction for res judicata purposes. Thus, the issue is not whether plaintiff could have pursued a recovery in tort against Ilg in conjunction with its former suit; rather, the issue before this court is whether Best Coin's failure to take such action resulted in a res judicata bar to its later, separately filed, complaint. The answer primarily depends upon whether the tortious interference claim represents substantially the same claim or cause of action as was litigated in the first suit, despite the different theory of recovery alleged and the money damages demanded.
• 7, 8 A prior judgment operates as res judicata of subsequent claims where the facts and relief sought are essentially, or substantially, the same. (Housing Authority v. YMCA (1984), 101 Ill.2d 246, 254, 461 N.E.2d 959, 963; Benton v. Smith (1987), 157 Ill.App.3d 847, 856, 510 N.E.2d 952, 956.) Illinois courts have used various standards for determining whether there is identity of causes of action. It has often been stated that a cause of action consists of a right belonging to the plaintiff and a violation of that right by a wrongful act or omission by the defendant for which the law gives a remedy. (Benton v. Smith (1987), 157 Ill.App.3d 847, 854, 510 N.E.2d 952, 956; Pfeiffer v. William Wrigley Jr. Co. (1985), 139 Ill.App.3d 320, 322, 484 N.E.2d 1187,
Plaintiff's complaint in the first suit was solely against Old Willow Falls. The right allegedly belonging to plaintiff was exclusive possession of a laundry room, a right based upon a written agreement which plaintiff characterized as a lease. Plaintiff and Loch Lomond Apartments, predecessor in interest to Old Willow Falls, were the sole parties to that agreement. The complaint alleged a violation of plaintiff's possessory rights under the contract by specific wrongful acts of Old Willow Falls. These included notification by Old Willow Falls that the contract was terminated by operation of law and the subsequent unlawful disconnection of the machines. The legal issues involved were: (1) whether Old Willow Falls had violated plaintiff's possessory rights to the laundry room; (2) whether the agreement itself provided for entry of a temporary or permanent injunction to restrain the lessor from violations of the agreement, including disconnection of plaintiff's machines, or conversely, whether any dispute between parties to the agreement must first be submitted to arbitration; (3) whether plaintiff's legal remedies were inadequate; and (4) whether plaintiff would suffer irreparable injury if injunctive relief were not granted. While the nature and enforceability
Examining the allegations of plaintiff's complaint at law, we find that the first 11, describing the terms of its lease, the factual background of the condominium conversion, and its eviction from the property, essentially mirror the allegations of the chancery complaint against Old Willow Falls. However, allegations 12 through 21 focus on specific revenue, renewal and other provisions of the two agreements as a basis of comparison. They further state that Ilg, knowing of the ongoing contractual relationship between plaintiff and Old Willow Falls, contacted Old Willow Falls with the intention of offering these more favorable terms to the lessor in order to induce it to breach plaintiff's lease. For Ilg's intentional, wilful and knowing inducement of the lessor, and for its intentional interference with plaintiff's ongoing contractual relationship, continuing, at plaintiff's option, until 1995, Best Coin demands both compensatory and punitive money damages. In order to obtain the relief sought under the theory advanced in this complaint, plaintiff would need to establish: (1) that the original agreement was a valid contract granting plaintiff certain rights enforceable against Old Willow Falls; (2) that Ilg had knowledge of the existing contract at the time he induced Old Willow Falls to breach it; (3) that Ilg intentionally and maliciously induced the breach; (4) that the subsequent breach was due to Ilg's wrongful conduct; and (5) that money damages resulted from the breach. See Candalus Chicago, Inc. v. Evans Mills Supply Co. (1977), 51 Ill.App.3d 38, 47, 366 N.E.2d 319, 326.
• 9 While it is obvious that certain evidence as to the nature and enforceability of plaintiff's contract would be required to support either plaintiff's chancery complaint or his complaint for tortious interference against Ilg, we cannot say, generally, that the evidence necessary to sustain the first complaint would sustain the second, or vice versa. This conclusion is supported by the court's analysis in Redfern v. Sullivan (1982), 111 Ill.App.3d 372, 376, 444 N.E.2d 205, 208. The issue in Redfern was whether, under the "same evidence" test, the dismissal with prejudice of two counts of plaintiff's complaint, for injunctive relief to restrain his lessor from taking possession of certain farmland or otherwise breaching an oral lease, operated as a res judicata bar to two other counts against the same defendant, seeking money damages for breach of that lease. Concluding that the same evidence would not sustain verdicts for both injunctive relief and money damages, and
In Redfern, the plaintiff sued defendants for money damages for breach of a lease after the court had dismissed his claim for equitable relief against the same defendants, based on the same occurrence, having heard arguments that plaintiff had failed to allege an inadequate remedy at law or irreparable harm and that the complaint had failed to establish the existence of a landlord-tenant relationship between the parties. In the instant case, where plaintiff is suing a different defendant for money damages, based solely upon that defendant's tortious conduct in inducing the first defendant to breach a lease, the facts even more strongly support the conclusion that the two causes of action are not identical, as measured by the "same evidence" test. Where, as here, the two suits are grounded upon different duties owed to plaintiff by different defendants, the relief requested is entirely different, and the same evidence would not sustain both claims, despite the involvement of the same property and contract in both, we cannot say, as courts in some cases have held, that all that has been substituted in the second suit is a different theory of recovery. See, e.g., Neuberg v. Michael Reese Hospital & Medical Center (1983), 118 Ill.App.3d 93, 99, 454 N.E.2d 684, 689 (same duties owed to plaintiff by same defendants and same evidence would sustain both claims); Morris v. Union Oil Co. (1981), 96 Ill.App.3d 148, 157, 421 N.E.2d 278, 285 (both suits based upon same instruments of title, same agreements, and same acts of defendants).
• 10 Illinois courts have also used a "transactional" approach to determine whether causes of action are identical for res judicata purposes, stating that "the assertion of different kinds or theories of relief still constitutes a single cause of action if a single group of operative facts give rise to the assertion of relief." (Baird & Warner, Inc. v. Addison Industrial Park, Inc. (1979), 70 Ill.App.3d 59, 64, 387 N.E.2d 831, 839; Radosta v. Chrysler Corp. (1982), 110 Ill.App.3d 1066,
In Johnson v. Nationwide Business Forms, Inc. (1976), 41 Ill.App.3d 128, 359 N.E.2d 171, plaintiffs brought an action against defendants for malicious interference with their contracts with a corporation. The corporation had undergone dissolution, and one of the plaintiffs had sued, in an earlier action, the corporation's assignee for the benefit of creditors, claiming money due on a promissory note held by plaintiff. The claim on the note was settled for part of its value, and the suit was then dismissed by consent of the parties. In the second suit, the plaintiff alleged that her loss of part value of the promissory note was the result of defendant's fraudulent acts in maliciously causing the debtor corporation's dissolution to avoid paying both plaintiffs the amounts due under their various contracts. This court held that the second suit was a distinct cause of action from the first and was not barred by the prior release and judgment. In reversing the trial court's dismissal of the tort action, we stated:
Similarly, in W.P. Iverson & Co. v. Dunham Manufacturing Co. (1958), 18 Ill.App.2d 404, 152 N.E.2d 615, this court held that a tort action charging defendants with malicious interference with contract by wrongfully conspiring to dissolve a corporation was a valid cause of action despite the fact that plaintiff may not have been able to bring an action against the corporation for breach of contract. Iverson, 18 Ill. App.2d at 417.
Other tortious interference cases not involving corporate dissolution are even closer in factual context to the case at bar. For example, in Chas. Todd Uniform Rental Service Co. v. Klysce (1961), 30 Ill.App.2d 274, 174 N.E.2d 570, the plaintiff had earlier brought suit against both
• 11 One year before Chas. Todd Uniform, this court decided the case of Howard T. Fisher & Associates, Inc. v. Shinner Realty Co. (1960), 24 Ill.App.2d 216, 164 N.E.2d 266, in which we upheld the dismissal of plaintiff's claim for tortious interference with contract as barred by res judicata. In Fisher, the plaintiff had first filed an action against Lincoln Village Shopping Center, Inc. (predecessor of Shinner Realty), and against Ernest G. Shinner, individually, to foreclose a mechanic's lien upon certain Chicago real estate. The court entered a final order dismissing that suit, which was upheld on appeal. Eight years later, plaintiff filed a complaint against both the Realty Company and Shinner for money damages for breach of the building construction contract upon which the mechanic's lien allegedly was based (count I), and against Shinner only for tortiously inducing Shinner Realty to breach the contract (count II). We concluded that both the breach of contract count and the tortious interference count were barred by the final adjudication in the first suit, and that the tort count was barred, in any case, by the applicable five-year statute of limitations. (Fisher, 24 Ill. App.2d at 225, 164 N.E.2d at 271-72.) However, Fisher can be distinguished from the case at bar, not only because of the additional statute of limitations factor, but also because the conduct of the same individual defendant, Ernest Shinner, was at issue in both suits. Here, Ilg was
• 12 In addition to res judicata principles, analyzed by means of the "same evidence" or "transactional" approaches, Illinois courts adhere, as a matter of public policy, to a general rule against the splitting of claims or causes of action. Under the rule against claim-splitting, closely related to the doctrine of res judicata, a plaintiff is not permitted to sue for part of a claim in one action and then sue for the remainder in another action. (Torres v. Rebarchark (7th Cir.1987), 814 F.2d 1219, 1224; Radosta v. Chrysler Corp. (1982), 110 Ill.App.3d 1066, 1068, 443 N.E.2d 670, 672.) In order that litigation have an end and that no person be unnecessarily harassed with a multiplicity of lawsuits, plaintiffs cannot indulge in piecemeal litigation. (Radosta v. Chrysler Corp. (1982), 110 Ill.App.3d 1066, 1068, 443 N.E.2d 670, 672.) For example, an entire claim arising from a single tort cannot be divided and be the subject of several actions regardless of whether or not the party suing has recovered all he might have recovered. (Radosta, 110 Ill. App.3d at 1069, 443 N.E.2d at 672.) Where a demand or right of action is in its nature entire and indivisible, it cannot be split up into several causes of action and be made the basis of many separate suits. Rather, the law requires that both in law and in equity a plaintiff must present all grounds of recovery he may have. He cannot preserve the right to bring a second action after loss of the first merely by limiting the theories of recovery opened by the pleadings in the first action. Prochotsky v. Union Central Life Insurance Co. (1971), 2 Ill.App.3d 354, 356-57, 276 N.E.2d 388, 390. See, e.g., Radosta v. Chrysler Corp. (1982), 110 Ill.App.3d 1066, 443 N.E.2d 670 (plaintiff's counterclaim in first action, grounded in strict liability and negligence, against manufacturer of his defective truck, involved in collision with third party, and plaintiff's claim in second suit, seeking indemnification for any liability for third party's injuries, were both based on allegations
As the court noted in Sjostrom, an action on the underlying contract and a mechanic's lien suit are concerned with the same matters of contract; therefore, all matters of recovery or defense arising from the contract should be litigated in one proceeding or otherwise be barred. (Sjostrom v. McMurray, 47 Ill. App.3d at 1046, 362 N.E.2d at 748.) Similarly, in the case of Douglas v. Papierz (1970), 121 Ill.App.2d 242, 257 N.E.2d 570, upon which Sjostrom relied, this court stated:
Likewise, in Howard T. Fisher & Associates, Inc. v. Shinner Realty Co. (1960), 24 Ill.App.2d 216, 164 N.E.2d 266, discussed above, this court articulated the same principle in finding that dismissal of plaintiff's earlier mechanic's lien foreclosure action barred a subsequent suit for damages on the underlying contract. We stated that the validity of the contract, and whether plaintiff or defendant had breached it, and other matters had been before the court at the time it was dismissed for want of equity, and that plaintiff had the duty to litigate those matters in the case at the time that judgment was entered, and could not relitigate them in a subsequent suit. Fisher, 24 Ill. App.2d at 224, 164 N.E.2d at 271.
• 13, 14 It is clear from the foregoing that there is support in the case law of this State, including decisions of this court, for defendant's contention that plaintiff had a responsibility to litigate all matters relating to its laundry room agreement in the context of the chancery case, where issues of the nature and alleged breach of that contract were presented to the court by plaintiff's pleadings and were argued by all three parties. We observe, however, that in the cases cited above, either the first suit presented claims directly against the same defendant sued in the second action, or the separately filed claims were more closely connected in terms of their similar or identical factual allegations, duties owed, and duties breached than were the actions for injunctive relief against Old Willow Falls and the tortious interference claim against Ilg at issue here. Moreover, even if we were to characterize plaintiff's action at law as running afoul of the general rule against claim-splitting, applied technically, we would nonetheless be required to find that plaintiff's claim is not barred as a result under the particular facts of this case. It has been recognized that the rule against splitting causes of action will be relaxed where there was an omission due to ignorance, mistake, or fraud, or where it would be inequitable to apply the rule. (Thorleif Larsen & Son, Inc. v. PPG Industries, Inc. (1988), 177 Ill.App.3d 656, 662, 532 N.E.2d 423, 427.) Section 26 of the Restatement (Second) of Judgments, relied upon in Larsen, lists four exceptions
Based on the foregoing analysis, we conclude that defendant has not met his burden of showing that the doctrine of res judicata should be applied in this case. First, under either of the tests used by our courts to determine whether there is an identity of claims in both suits, plaintiff's action for tortious interference against defendant is, in our view, a separate cause of action, for reasons already stated. Furthermore, while it may be a close academic question whether the rule against claim-splitting would ordinarily bar such a claim, we conclude that the rule is not applicable under the special circumstances reviewed here. Finally, we note the general principle that the doctrine of res judicata will not be applied technically so as to create inequitable and unjust results. While acknowledging that errors of judgment and strategy have been made by plaintiff as well as defendant during the course of this extended litigation, we also believe that there has been substantial confusion caused by neither party. We therefore conclude that considerations of equity, as well as established rules of interpretation, dictate that plaintiff's action at law not be dismissed on res judicata grounds.
• 15, 16 There remains the question of whether plaintiff's claim is
• 17 Defendant maintains, correctly, that in order to prove its case for tortious interference with contract, plaintiff will need to establish, inter alia, that the original agreement was a valid contract granting it certain rights enforceable against Old Willow Falls and that Old Willow Falls breached that contract, two issues presented and argued to the court in plaintiff's first lawsuit. If defendant can show with clarity and certainty that these issues were actually decided in the prior action, based on a specific finding in the record or in the final order dismissing that case, collateral estoppel will apply. From our examination of the record, and of Judge Wosik's August 17, 1983, order, set out earlier in this opinion, it is evident that defendant cannot meet this burden. The order dismissing the chancery case does not reflect either a finding of specific fact or a determination related to the nature or validity of the contract, or to whether it was breached. Furthermore, both Judge Wosik's statements immediately prior to issuing this order and the text of
We therefore hold that Judge Berman's order, denying defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on res judicata grounds, was not erroneous. That order is affirmed. In remanding this cause for further proceedings, we recognize that the court, to decide the merits of the claim, will need to determine the nature, validity, and enforceability of the contract on which that claim is based, and may need to construe its terms. The permanent stay of arbitration between plaintiff and Old Willow Falls related to the controversy between those parties, which is now res judicata, and remains in effect as a result. That stay does not, however, operate to preclude the court's determination, in this case, as to whether there was a valid contract in force, what rights it created, whether the contract was breached by Old Willow Falls, and whether such breach, if any, was caused by defendant's conduct. The plaintiff is thus afforded an opportunity, assuming an otherwise legally sufficient complaint, for a full and final determination of these issues on their merits. Matters should proceed as expeditiously as possible, in the interest of justice and in view of achieving an end to this extended litigation. This case is remanded to the trial court for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Order affirmed; remanded with directions.
LORENZ and PINCHAM, JJ., concur.