Hausmann v. Hausmann – Case Brief Summary

Summary of Hausmann v. Hausmann, 231 Ill. App. 3d 361, 370, 596 N.E.2d 216, 221 (1992).

Facts

George Hausmann (D) held a life estate in property in which his nephew Charles Hausmann (P) had a remainder interest. As party of a scheme to acquire the property outright, George stopped paying real estate taxes and when the property was subject to tax sale, his stepson purchased the property through a shill. After acquiring the property, George terminated Charles’s use of the premises and demanded a daily rental for personal property remaining on the land. The plaintiff paid the $900 in outstanding taxes and redeemed the property.

Plaintiff brought suit for waste and sought a declaration of rights, injunctive relief in the form of an order directing future payments, and reimbursement for the taxes. He claimed that the defendant had intentionally failed to pay the taxes as part of the scheme to allow the defendant’s stepson to purchase the property. Defendant filed a counterclaim claiming that the plaintiff had not repaid a loan of $5,000, and that plaintiff owed him for rental and storage of personal property on the land.

At trial Charles was awarded $1,671.20 and interest and $7,500 in punitive damages on the claim for waste. The court also found for Charles on George’s claim for rent. The court found for George on his claim regarding the unpaid loan, and denied Charles’s request for injunctive relief. Both parties appealed.

Issue

  • Is a deliberate failure to pay property taxes waste?

Holding and Rule

  • Yes. A deliberate failure to pay property taxes is waste.

Waste occurs when someone who lawfully has possession of real property destroys, misuses, alters, or neglects it, such that either the interest of another person having a subsequent right to possession is prejudiced, or there is a diminution in the value of the property. The court rejected the defendant’s contention that waste is generally limited to physical damage to property.

The court held that while the plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief would be proper in a claim for waste, an injunction need not issue as a matter of course whenever damages are awarded. The court held that absent a showing of abuse of discretion by the trial judge, it could not second guess the denial of injunctive relief. The court held that there had been no abuse of discretion.

The court rejected defendant’s argument that punitive damages were inappropriate because he had acted willfully in an attempt to gain control of the property.

Disposition

Judgment affirmed.

See Popov v. Hayashi for a property law case brief in which the plaintiff sought injunctive relief in a suit for recovery of a baseball.


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