Q. What are “equitable remedies”?
Illinois recognizes two basic types of relief in civil cases. A “legal” action is one where money damages will adequately compensate a plaintiff. By contrast, an “equitable” claim is one seeking an extraordinary remedy, where money alone will not adequately compensate a plaintiff. The distinction between “legal” and “equitable” remedies is largely historical.
Q. What types of “equitable remedies” are available?
Illinois law recognizes a number of “equitable remedies.” For example, a court may “foreclose” a mortgage to enforce a lender’s right to payment on a mortgage loan, or enter an “injunction” either to force a party to refrain from doing a particular act, or, in some cases, to do a particular act. If a court finds that owners of a business cannot continue to work cooperatively, it may “dissolve” the business, and order one of the owners to submit an “accounting” of all transactions to the other owners. If the court learns that corporate officers are embezzling money from the company, it may appoint a “receiver” to seize control of the company and manage it. These are some of the most common types of “equitable remedies.”
Q. Do I need to file suit in a special court if I want an equitable remedy?
Not anymore. Since 1970, the Illinois Constitution abolished all distinctions between different kinds of courts, and held that our circuit courts have original jurisdiction over most justiciable matters. However, some Illinois county courts have administrative divisions for different types of cases; in such a county, a judge in the court’s “chancery” division will usually hear cases seeking equitable remedies.
Q. If I sue for an equitable remedy, will a jury hear my case?
Generally not. Juries usually hear civil cases seeking money damages, while a judge typically acts as the finder of fact in cases seeking equitable remedies.
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