Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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Carmichael was an employee of the Railroad, which contracted with PTI to transport its employees to and between job sites. Plaintiff was riding in a PTI van in the course of her employment when the van collided with another vehicle, causing plaintiff severe injuries. Plaintiff settled with the driver of the other vehicle, for the limits of his automobile insurance policy, $20,000. Plaintiff sought a declaration that the PTI was legally responsible for her damages due to a statutory violation: PTI’s vehicle insurance policy did not contain the minimum coverage required by the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/8- 101(c)). In both an affirmative defense and a counterclaim, PTI argued that section 8-101(c) was unconstitutional. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 19 requires a party challenging the constitutionality of a statute to provide notice to the Attorney General, to afford the appropriate state officer “the opportunity, but not the obligation, to intervene." PTI avoided that process. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the counterclaim. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed that the counterclaim was not under Illinois law and remanded. A purported counterclaim that fails to allege an independent, substantive cause of action against the plaintiff and fails to make a specific prayer for relief but only seeks to defeat the plaintiff’s claims is really an affirmative defense, not a counterclaim. View "Carmichael v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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In 2004, Nichols, age 11, received $600,000 in a settlement for injuries she suffered in a motor vehicle accident. The court appointed her mother as her guardian to administer her estate and appointed attorney Fahrenkamp as guardian ad litem. In 2012 Nichols sued her mother, claiming that she used $79,507 of settlement funds for her own benefit. The trial court ruled in Nichols’s favor but limited recovery to $16,365, a 2007 Jeep Compass, and $10,000 in attorney fees. Nichols sued Fahrenkamp for legal malpractice in approving expenditures that were not in Nichols’s interests. She claimed that Fahrenkamp never met with her or consulted with her regarding her mother’s expenditures. The circuit court granted Fahrenkamp summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that guardians ad litem have a duty to protect their wards’ assets and interests and that immunizing guardians ad litem from tort suits would be inconsistent with this duty. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated summary judgment in Fahrenkamp’s favor, applying the “functional test” and looking past the title attached to the position to look to the position holder’s role. In the past, the guardian ad litem served in almost a trustee-like capacity, seeking to specifically advocate the pecuniary interests of the ward, but a present-day guardian ad litem functions as a representative of the court appointed to assist in protecting the ward's best interests. View "Nichols v. Fahrenkamp" on Justia Law

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In December 2007, the decedent had gastric bypass surgery and developed a bed sore that became infected. The Hospital discharged him four days after the procedure. In January 2008, the decedent died from complications associated with a bacterial infection. Ward's initial nine-count complaint was dismissed for failure to comply with the Code of Civil Procedure. First and second amended complaints were also dismissed. The Hospital filed its answer to a third amended complaint. Four years later, in December 2015, the judge issued a pretrial conference order. A jury trial was set for January 2016. On December 31, 2015, the Hospital moved to bar Ward’s disclosure of a rebuttal witness the day before, 20 days before the start of the trial, noting that the case had been pending for six years. Ward unsuccessfully sought leave to file a fourth amended complaint, alleging a survival claim against the Hospital under a theory of respondeat superior and a wrongful death claim against the Hospital under a theory of respondeat superior. Ward successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice. In May 2016, Ward initiated another lawsuit against the Hospital, nearly identical to the proposed fourth amended complaint. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ward, overturning summary judgment in favor of the Hospital. None of the orders dismissing counts of the various complaints in the initial action were final. The lack of finality renders the doctrine of res judicata inapplicable. View "Ward v. Decatur Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendant for tortious interference with Plaintiff’s share of the trust by making false statements and presenting misleading evidence against Plaintiff in earlier litigation. Both parties were licensed attorneys, acting pro se. The complaint was dismissed. The Cook County circuit court entered an order imposing Rule 137 sanctions against Plaintiff. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s tortious interference claim and the finding that Plaintiff violated Rule 137 in filing that frivolous claim but reversed a finding that Defendant was entitled to attorney fees. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded with directions to reinstate Defendant’s attorney fee award View "McCarthy v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Jane and her parents, sued two individuals and several entities including and affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC) after Jane was sexually assaulted by a youth pastor. Plaintiffs alleged that the First Congregational Church of Dundee (FCCD) and its pastor, James, negligently and willfully and wantonly hired, supervised, and retained FCCD’s director of youth ministries, Plaintiffs amended their complaint twice. All counts of the second amended complaint were dismissed as against FCCD and James. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the striking of portions of the plaintiffs’ complaint but reinstated all counts of the complaint. The stricken statements concerned FCCD’s and James’s post-assault actions, which do not support plaintiffs’ claims of an ongoing conscious disregard for Jane’s welfare or a pattern of conduct prior to the assault nor do they make it more likely or less likely that they acted negligently before the assault. The negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention counts were reinstated, as were the willful and wanton counts inasmuch as they overlap with the negligent supervision counts but not to the extent they overlap with the negligent retention counts. View "Doe v. Coe" on Justia Law

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Edwards was charged under the Timber Buyers Licensing Act. The information referred to each violation as constituting a Class A misdemeanor, which Edwards disputed. Edwards filed several pretrial motions, including motions to dismiss, contesting the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. The state was twice allowed to amend the information. A jury found Edwards guilty of both counts. Edwards sought a writ of prohibition (Ill. S. Ct. Rs. 383, 381), alleging that the information charged him with violating regulations and not a statute defining a criminal offense. The Illinois Supreme Court stayed the circuit court case but denied relief. A writ of prohibition will not issue unless four requirements are met. It is not disputed that action to be prohibited is of a judicial or quasi-judicial nature and that the writ would be directed against a tribunal of inferior jurisdiction. In addition, “the action to be prohibited must be outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction or, if within its jurisdiction, beyond its legitimate authority.” This case turned on the fourth element: Edwards did not establish that there was not any other adequate remedy available nor has he demonstrated irremediable harm so as to warrant excusal from the normal appellate process. View "Edwards v. Atterberry" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Defendant was charged with the sexual assault of his 10-year-old daughter, J.G. The indictment alleged that defendant inserted his fingers in J.G.’s vagina, licked her vagina, and touched her buttocks. After his conviction, Defendant filed multiple pro se collateral challenges to his convictions and at various times was represented by different attorneys. In 2015, Defendant filed a pro se motion seeking DNA testing under the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/116-3). The state argued that the controversy at trial was not whether another individual had committed the crime but whether the alleged assault occurred at all. At a hearing, Defendant appeared pro se but was accompanied by attorney Brodsky, who sought to file a Supreme Court Rule 13 limited scope appearance. The court denied Brodsky’s oral request, stating that allowing the motion would mean that attorney Caplan, Brodsky, and the defendant were all working on the case. Defendant later argued extensively in support of his DNA motion. Brodsky was not present. The appellate court vacated the denial of the motion, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s "Powell: decision concerning a court's refusal to hear chosen counsel. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding no “Powell” violation. A section 116-3 action is civil in nature and independent from any other collateral post-conviction action and Brodsky’s request failed completely to comply with the requirements of that rule. View "People v. Gawlak" on Justia Law

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A motorist whose vehicle was rear-ended sued the other driver. The circuit court entered judgment for the defendant. The appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial on damages, holding that the circuit court erred in allowing admission of postaccident photographs of the vehicles absent expert testimony and that the jury verdict was not supported by the evidence. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The photographs were relevant because they had a tendency to make a fact that was of consequence to the determination of the action, the existence and extent of plaintiff’s injuries, more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence and to aid in the determination of credibility of the parties and, thus, admissible. If a jury is allowed to consider relevant testimony about vehicle speed and impact forces, a jury should be permitted to consider photographs that depict the damage, or lack thereof, done to the vehicles. the circuit court could properly have found that the pictures, when considered with other evidence, were relevant to prove the matters at issue were “more or less probable.” View "Peach v. McGovern" on Justia Law

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The Biometric Information Privacy Act, 740 ILCS 14/1, imposes restrictions on how private entities collect, retain, disclose and destroy biometric identifiers, including retina or iris scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, scans of hand or face geometry, or biometric information. Under the Act, any person “aggrieved” by a violation of its provisions “shall have a right of action … against an offending party” and “may recover for each violation” the greater of liquidated damages or actual damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs, and any other relief, including an injunction, that the court deems appropriate. Six Flags Great America amusement park sells repeat-entry passes that use a fingerprinting process. The plaintiff alleged that she bought a season pass for her minor son, who was fingerprinted while on a school field trip, and that she had not been previously informed of, nor consented to, the process. She alleges that, although her son has not returned to the Park, Six Flags retains the biometric information. Reversing the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court held that one qualifies as an “aggrieved” person and may seek liquidated damages and injunctive relief pursuant to the Act even if he has not alleged some actual injury or adverse effect, beyond a violation of his rights under the statute. View "Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp." on Justia Law

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In a 2004 Chicago altercation, Vanecko punched Koschman in the face, causing Koschman to fall back and strike his head on the sidewalk. Koschman died from his injuries. In 2004-2011, law enforcement investigated. No charges were filed. In 2011, the Koschman family sought the appointment of a special prosecutor, alleging that Vanecko was a nephew of then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and a grandson of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. In 2012, the court appointed Webb as special prosecutor, 55 ILCS 5/3-9008. In 2012, on petition of the special prosecutor, the criminal court impaneled a special grand jury. A court order placed under seal “all Grand Jury materials.” The special grand jury issued 160 subpoenas and collected more than 22,000 documents and indicted Vanecko for involuntary manslaughter. In 2014, Vanecko pled guilty; the court unsealed the report and released it to the public. The trial court rejected subsequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 ILCS 140/1, for the sealed grand jury documents. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, which rejected disclosure of most of the FOIA requests but remanded to the circuit court for an in camera inspection of a specific category of documents to determine which may be disclosed. A lawful court order takes precedence over the disclosure requirements of FOIA; a requester must first have the court that issued the injunction modify or vacate its order. If the issuing court refuses, the requester may challenge the refusal in a direct appeal. View "In re Appointment of Special Prosecutor" on Justia Law