Shhh! Granite City silently settles with Peach, Maag

Steve Korris May 17, 2007, 5:00am

Thomas Maag

Armettia Peach, who paid $20,000 down on a house in $20 bills, watched someone else take the title, moved in, sued Granite City over a leaky roof, won more than $100,000, and then lost it, has settled the suit.

Now Granite City will help Peach go after local contractor Kevin Link, who remains a defendant in the suit.

Peach and the city moved May 11 to file their deal under seal, for purposes of pursuing a settlement with Link.

Attorney Thomas Maag represents Peach. He sued the city and Link on her behalf in 2004, when he was an associate at the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.

The firm had filed class action suits over auto financing with Peach and her boyfriend, Chad Carpenter, as proposed class representatives.

Maag's suit claimed that Granite City improperly granted an occupancy permit at 9 Briarcliff Drive.

Maag claimed that Link bought the house, performed cosmetic repairs, concealed deficiencies and sold the house.

Maag claimed the roof leaked and water damaged the house.

The city did not respond. Maag moved for default judgment.

Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian granted it July 1, 2004. He awarded Peach $70,000 as the purchase price of the house.

He awarded $8,050 for repairs and $192.50 for costs.

He awarded $26,016.67 in attorney fees.

The judgment added up to $104,259.17.

When Granite City received a bill, the city moved to vacate the judgment.

In 2005, the Record reported that Peach did not buy the house.

County records showed that Link sold it to Carpenter, for $68,900.

Carpenter later conveyed the title to Peach on a quit claim.

Link told the Record that Peach gave him a thousand $20 bills as a down payment. He produced a photograph of the currency.

He said Peach came to the closing but Carpenter bought the property.

Granite City hired a title company to confirm the Record's research. The city put the title company's report in the case file.

At a hearing Aug. 16, 2005, Matoesian voided the default judgment.

Maag appealed to the Fifth District appellate court in Mount Vernon.

Presiding Justice Stephen Spomer and Justices Richard Goldenhersh and Terry Hopkins heard oral arguments on the appeal.

After Hopkins died, Justice James Wexstten replaced him on the panel. Wexstten read the briefs and listened to tape of oral arguments.

This March, the panel vacated the order that voided the default judgment.

All three Justices agreed that Matoesian did not find facts, explain reasons or reach conclusions of law.

Goldenhersh wrote, "Here, it is clear that the city had been served but ignored the service and failed to respond."

He wrote, "Under these circumstances, the circuit court was incorrect in finding the default judgment 'void,' because it had both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction over the city…"

He wrote, "A petitioner must show that the failure to defend against the lawsuit was reasonable and that, under the circumstances, the petitioner did not act negligently in failing to initially resist the judgment."

The panel directed Matoesian to hold a hearing and apply proper analysis.

That hearing won't happen.

On May 11, Granite City attorney Jane Unsell moved for a finding of good faith settlement.

Matoesian dismissed the city, but not Link.

Matoesian vacated his default judgment of 2004.

The city submitted a release and asked Matoesian to seal it. Matoesian sealed it.

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