Order Requiring Issuance Of Building Permits Final And Appealable Despite Remaining Claim

A developer bought land in Chicago intending to build apartments on it. The developer had the property for several years and incurred expenses to prepare it for construction. Then the City of Chicago rezoned the property, and the apartments no longer were allowed.

The developer sued the city. The developer claimed its expenditures for the property gave it a vested right to the previous zoning classification. The developer’s complaint had two theories. The first asked for a writ of mandamus – i.e., an order that the city issue the building permits. The second demanded a declaration that the developer was entitled to the building permits. After trial, the court ordered the city to issue permits so the apartments could be built. The trial court’s judgment granted the mandamus action, but was silent on the declaratory judgment request. The city appealed.

Because the trial court did not explicitly resolve the request for a declaratory judgment, there was a question of whether the order was final and appealable. If not, the appellate court would not have jurisdiction to hear the city’s appeal.

Normally, an order is appealable only if it disposes of all claims as to all parties. But the First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that it did have jurisdiction over this appeal, despite the trial court not ruling on one of the two claims. Here’s the court’s thinking:

We agree with the City that our jurisdiction is not defeated by the fact that the trial court’s order does not formally dispose of plaintiffs’ request for declaratory judgment. When the relief sought under different counts is identical, and disposition of the one necessarily entails disposal of the other, then the grant of relief under one count will be deemed, for purposes of appeal, to constitute a resolution of the other count as well … In the instant case, plaintiffs’ claims for mandamus and declaratory judgment are both predicated upon the same theory–namely, that they acquired vested rights to construction permits by virtue of their expenditures on reliance on the preexisting zoning classification–so, for purposes of appeal, the resolution of the former obviates the necessity of a formal resolution of the latter.

Ultimately, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. You can read the whole opinion, Cribbin v. City of Chicago, No. 1-06-1671 (8/15/08), by clicking here.