Maher & Associates, v. Quality Cabinets

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267 Ill.App.3d 69, 640 N.E.2d 1000 (2d Dist. 1994)

Defendant Quality Cabinets appealed trial court’s decision which granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on claim pursuant to Illinois Sales Representative Act (820 ILCS 120/0.01 et seq.) awarding punitive damages to plaintiff Maher & Associates under section 120/3 of the Act.

Anthony Bruozas argued before the Second District panel that, while the Act was silent with regard to whether any aggravated conduct was required before the court could impose punitive damages, Illinois precedent has consistently held that a showing of “willful and wanton” conduct was necessary. See, Loitz v. Remington Arms Co., 138 Ill.2d 404, 414, 563 N.E.2d 297 (1990). The appellate court agreed noting that “punitive damages may be awarded ‘only for conduct involving an element of outrage similar to that normally found in crime. The conduct must be outrageous, i.e., defendant’s  acts are done with an ‘evil motive’ or with ‘reckless indifference’ to the rights of others.’” Maher (quoting Johnson v. Anchor Organization for Health Maintenance,  250 Ill.App.3d 393, 397-98, 621 N.E.2d 137 (1993) (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts, sec., 908, Comment b at 464-65 (1979)). Accordingly, the Second Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision and instructed it on remand that Maher would be entitled to exemplary damages only if it could demonstrate that Quality violated the Act by not remitting commissions within 13 days of when they were due following termination and Quality’s behavior in withholding those commissions beyond the statutory period was “outrageous and the moral equivalent of criminal conduct.”