Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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The Crims, acting on behalf of their son, Collin, filed a medical malpractice claim, alleging that Dietrich failed to obtain informed consent to perform a natural birth despite possible risks associated with Collin’s large size, and negligently delivered Collin, causing him injuries. Finding that the Crims failed to present expert testimony that a reasonable patient would have pursued a different form of treatment, the circuit court granted a directed verdict on the issue of informed consent. The jury returned a defense verdict on professional negligence. The Crims did not file any post-trial motions. On appeal, the Crims referred to the directed verdict. The appellate court remanded. On remand, Dietrich moved to exclude any evidence relating to negligent delivery. The circuit court certified the question: “Whether the ruling ... reversing the judgment and remanding this case for a new trial requires a trial de novo on all claims.” The appellate court answered yes, stating that it had issued a general remand without specific instructions. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed; 735 ILCS 5/2-1202 requires a litigant to file a post-trial motion in order to challenge the jury’s verdict even when the circuit court enters a partial directed verdict as to other issues. The failure to file such a motion deprived the circuit court of an opportunity to correct any trial errors involving the verdict and undermined any notion of fairness on appeal. The Crims failed to preserve any challenge to the jury’s verdict for appellate review. The appellate court could not remand the matter on an issue never raised. View "Crim v. Dietrich" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs rented an apartment in a large residential complex from the defendant with a lease term beginning on October 1, 2014, with a security deposit of $1290. The plaintiffs moved out on September 30, 2016. In October 2016, the defendant returned the full security deposit but did not pay security interest on that deposit at any time, as required by the Security Deposit Interest Act, 765 ILCS 715/0.01. Plaintiffs brought two class-action claims and an individual claim but did not file a class-certification motion. Defendant responded by tendering plaintiffs’ requested damages and attorney fees on one count and later moving to dismiss the other two. Plaintiffs refused that tender, and the defendant later argued that its tender made that cause of action moot. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the case. Reaffirming its own precedent, the court held that an effective tender made before a named plaintiff purporting to represent a class files a class certification motion satisfies the named plaintiff’s individual claim and moots her interest in the litigation. The court distinguished U.S. Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit decisions that dealt with an offer of judgment under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which are an offer of settlement, as opposed to a tender that completely satisfies a plaintiff’s demand. On remand, the defendant is to deposit the tender with the circuit court, which is to determine the plaintiffs’ costs and reasonable attorney fees before dismissing contingent upon payment of those costs and fees. View "Joiner v. SVM Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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Gayden was convicted of unlawful use or possession of a weapon for possessing a shotgun “having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length” and was sentenced to two years in prison and one year of mandatory supervised release (MSR). Gayden argued that his attorney was ineffective for failing to move to suppress the evidence. The appellate court declined to decide that claim, finding the record insufficient to determine the issue. The court noted that Gayden could pursue collateral relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act. Gayden sought rehearing, informing the court that he lacked standing to seek postconviction relief because he had completed his MSR while his appeal was pending and arguing that the court erred in finding the record insufficient to consider his ineffective assistance claim. Upon denial of rehearing, the appellate court held that, because Gayden had not informed the court that he had been released from custody when he filed his appeal, the court would not consider this new argument upon rehearing and that an argument concerning his ineffective assistance claim was impermissible reargument. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The appellate court properly concluded that the record was insufficient to decide the ineffective assistance claim on direct appeal. The court rejected Gaydens’s request to allow him to file a petition for postconviction relief or to order the appellate court to retain jurisdiction and remand the case for an evidentiary hearing in the trial court. View "People v. Gayden" on Justia Law

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West Bend's insurance policy required that TRRS provide timely notice of a covered worker’s injury. TRRS employee Bernardino was injured in the scope of his employment. West Bend claimed that TRRS did not timely report Bernardino’s injury but paid Bernardino’s lost wages and medical expenses relating to the injury without West Bend’s knowledge or permission. West Bend sent TRRS a reservation of rights letter, stating that West Bend would not reimburse any voluntary payments they made in connection with Bernardino’s injury. Bernardino filed a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) and filed a separate negligence action against several defendants, including his employers. West Bend sought a judgment declaring that it did not have a duty to defend or indemnify TRRS then filed an emergency motion to stay the pending IWCC proceeding. Bernardino argued that West Bend had not sufficiently proved that it had issued an insurance policy covering the worksite where he was injured, precluding the circuit court from making a coverage determination. The circuit court entered an order staying the IWCC proceedings, finding that it had "primary jurisdiction." The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court disagreed. The primary jurisdiction doctrine generally “provides that where a court has jurisdiction over a matter, it should in some instances stay the judicial proceedings pending referral of a controversy, or some portion of it, to an administrative agency.” A trial court cannot rely on that doctrine to stay IWCC proceedings. View "West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. TRRS Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Joneses sought to recover damages suffered when John contracted lung cancer, resulting from his exposure to “asbestos from one or more” of numerous companies while he was involved in the construction industry and while he repaired the brakes on motor vehicles he owned. Owens and Abex were among the named defendants. The Joneses asserted that the defendants knew that asbestos was dangerous but conspired to misrepresent its dangers and to falsely represent that exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing products was safe or nontoxic. Abex and Owens argued that the civil conspiracy claims were based on the same facts as those advanced unsuccessfully by other plaintiffs in numerous earlier cases, particularly the Illinois Supreme Court’s 1999 McClure decision. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Instead of undertaking a meaningful evaluation of the applicability of the legal principles governing civil conspiracy as articulated in the cited precedent, and with no real assessment of whether and to what extent any factual differences between those cases and this one might justify a different result, the appellate court summarily distinguished the prior decisions on the sole grounds that the civil conspiracy claims advanced against Owens and Abex in those cases were decided in the context of motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, while here they were resolved on motions for summary judgment. View "Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC" on Justia Law

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Mother filed a contribution petition under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/513(a), requesting that Father be ordered to pay an equitable share of their daughter's college costs. The two were never married; although their 1997 agreed order addressed child-related issues, it was silent on college expenses. Father had the financial ability to pay but objected to paying because he had not been involved in the college selection process. The court stated: “People that are married ... have no obligation at all to pay for their children’s college education. Because of that, people who are married have input into where their children go to school. … The legislature has taken away that choice from people who are not married. The court ordered the parties each to pay 40% of their daughter’s college expenses. Father then challenged section 513 on equal protection grounds. The Illinois Supreme Court had upheld section 513 against an equal protection challenge in its 1978 “Kujawinski” decision. The trial court ultimately declared section 513 unconstitutional as applied, reasoning that Kujawinski's conclusion that section 513 satisfied the rational basis test because children of unmarried parents faced more disadvantages and were less likely to receive financial help with college from their parents than children of married parents was no longer viable. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated. Regardless of the impact of any societal evolution since the Kujawinski decision, that holding remains directly on point; the trial court lacked authority to declare that precedent invalid. View "Yakich v. Aulds" on Justia Law

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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