The City of Wood River argues that a grass-cutting lien was placed on a Wood River property under its previous owners and could not have caused slander to the plaintiff in a suit alleging property owners were not properly notified of the liens.
Maag Holdings LLC filed the complaint on Aug. 14 against the City of Wood River, alleging the defendant placed a lien on the plaintiff’s property for removal costs of neglected weeds and grass. The plaintiff claims the city did not properly serve the lien by certified mail or personally, violating Illinois statutes.
Maag Holdings seeks class certification to include all Wood River residents who were not properly served with liens on their property.
The City of Wood River filed a combined motion to dismiss on Dec. 17 through attorney John Gilbert of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard PC in Edwardsville.
The motion states that the grass-cutting lien was placed on the Wood River property under the previous owner "who apparently failed to pay."
The City of Wood River argues that it is protected from civil litigation by the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, including immunity from liability for libel and slander.
The defendant also argues that even if the lien notification did violate state statute, "as a mater of law those actions were not and could not be malicious activity by this defendant directed against plaintiff."
The motion states that the plaintiff did not purchase the property until March 31, 2018, meaning the lien could not have slandered the plaintiff's title before it held a title to the property.
"Furthermore, because the lawn mowing and all of the lien filing took place when the property was owned by another, plaintiff could not have sustained any damages," the motion states.
The City of Wood River claims that "there is no cause of action for slander of title when a lien filer believes that a valid lien is being filed, even if it turns out later that the lien was somehow defective."
The defendant also argues that the "slander of title claim" is time barred under the one-year statute of limitations, making all conduct occurring before Aug. 14, 2017, time barred.
"Plaintiff is seeking to recover for activities and actions which began more than five years before the filing of plaintiff's complaint and all of the allegedly technically deficient liens for grass cutting were prepared and filed when the property was owned by another entity which plaintiff described in the complaint as either Earthly Interiors Inc. or Eathly Interiors Inc.," the motion states.
In the alternative, the City of Wood River seeks to strike unrelated allegations and argues that the plaintiff should be required to correct its complaint.
The defendant argues that the complaint must be a “cookie cutter” complaint used in other litigation, because some allegations “could not possibly have any bearing on plaintiff’s purported case against the City of Wood River …”
On Dec. 18, the City of Wood River also filed a motion to strike, extend time, or grant other miscellaneous relief regarding the plaintiff’s motion for class certification.
The defendant argues that the motion for class certification was filed prematurely.
“Postponing any further activity regarding the prematurely-filed motion for class certification is warranted in order to promote judicial efficiency and economy, to save the parties the time and money required to undertake discovery and to fully brief the motion for class certification in the face of well-taken motions to dismiss,” the motion states.
The plaintiffs are represented by Shari L. Murphy of the Law Offices of Shari L. Murphy in Wood River.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 18-L-1039