Class certification hearing set in suit over Alton grass-cutting liens

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Nov 29, 2018

A hearing on class certification has been set for next week in a lawsuit alleging the City of Alton failed to deliver grass-cutting liens personally or by certified mail.

The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. in Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth's courtroom.

Plaintiff S&J Real Property filed a motion for class certification on Aug. 21 through The Law Offices of Shari L. Murphy LLC in Wood River.

The plaintiff argues that the suit is about the City of Alton “slandering title to its residents’ real property by recording false removal cost liens for purported grass cutting.”


The plaintiff seeks to define the class as “all citizens that had a lien(s) recorded in the land records against their parcel(s) by City of Alton and was not served personally or by certified mail with a copy of said purported lien(s) that was recorded in the land records against their parcel(s).”

S&J Real Property argues that class certification is appropriate with expectations of more than 50 class members, even though an exact number will not be known until discovery.

The plaintiff also argues that there are questions of law that are common to all proposed class members, and a class action would be an appropriate method to resolve the matters.

“The size of each class member’s relatively small claim is too insignificant to make individual litigation an economically viable alternative, such that as a practical matter there is no ‘alternative’ means of adjudication to a class action,” the motion states.

“Despite the relatively small size of individual class members’ claims, their aggregate volume, coupled with the economies of scale inherent in litigating similar claims on a common basis, will enable this class action to be litigated on a cost effective basis, especially when compared with repetitive individual litigants,” it continues.

S&J Real Property filed the complaint individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated on Aug. 21 against the City of Alton.

According to the complaint, a lien is required for removal costs of neglected weeds and grass on a parcel of land and must be served either personally or by certified mail to whomever was sent the property tax bill for the parcel in the taxable year immediately preceding the removal. Otherwise, the removal cost is not a lien on the parcel.

S&J Real Property owns a property located at 946 Union Street in Alton.

The city allegedly recorded a grass cutting lien on the property for mowing and weed eating in the amount of $108.70, the suit states.

The plaintiff alleges Alton failed to serve the grass cutting lien personally or by certified mail.

The plaintiff argues that by placing the lien on the property, the defendant “slanders the title to real estate when it places said purported liens on parcels without personally serving or sending by certified mail said purported liens.”

The plaintiff seeks an award for the class members for their individual damages, plus attorney’s fees, costs and interest.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 18-L-1084

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