Articles Posted in Illinois Civil Procedure

Illinois lawyers sometimes struggle with discovery requests to produce incident reports. The defendant in a case where someone was injured may as a matter of business have a rule about preparing incident reports by employees or managers of these facilities.

Suppose a customer at an automotive repair company is injured while waiting to receive the person’s vehicle when the customer falls down a stairwell and is injured. The manager of the auto repair shop by rule prepares an incident report. The customer who was injured hires an attorney who now seeks a copy of that incident report, but the auto repair shop attorney claims that the report is privileged.

Illinois’ Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(A) is the operative law on why the auto repair shop must turn over the incident report.  Illinois Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(A) is an admission by a party opponent that states: “That the statement is offered against a party and is (A) the party’s own statement, in either an individual or a representative capacity.” IRE 801(d)(2)(A).

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In 2006, Kipling Development Corp. was building a home in Will County, Ill. Kipling was the general contractor on the job.  The firm hired subcontractors to handle specific pieces of the job, including Speed-Drywall and United Floor Covering.

A service technician, Brian Harwell, entered the worksite to replace a furnace filter, using the stairs leading to the first floor to the basement. In the process, the stairs collapsed beneath Harwell, sending him falling into the basement. He sustained serious injuries and filed a lawsuit against Kipling as the general contractor of the building site.

In the lawsuit, it was alleged that Kipling was negligent in choosing not to properly supervise and direct construction and failing to furnish Harwell with a safe workplace and a safe stairway. In addition, Harwell also sued Speed-Drywall and United Floor Covering, claiming that they had modified or failed to secure the stairwell.

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In the opinion written by the Illinois Appellate Court for the 4th District, the appellate court upheld the right of an injured plaintiff to recover the full amount of medical expenses if that amount had been written off by the medical provider.

In the underlying case, a Coles County jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff Harold Miller for $133,347 for medical expenses in his July 2015 medical-malpractice trial. The 5th Judicial Circuit Court judge reduced the verdict by $91,724 when the defendant hospital and doctor argued that such a number represented an amount of money that neither Miller nor his health-care provider had a right to recover since it was written off in his medical bills.

The defendants brought their motion to reduce the medical expenses award under Section 2-1205 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. The statute provides that recovery amounts can be reduced by up to 100% of the benefits provided for medical, hospital, nursing or care-taking charges that have either already been paid or become payable to the injured party.

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In a new piece of legislation, 735 ILCS 35/1, et seq., Illinois joins more than three dozen other states in enacting some form of the Uniform Interstate Deposition and Discovery Act. The act creates a simpler means in which to conduct discovery out of state. This will make it easier for lawyers in Illinois to issue subpoenas for out-of-state discovery in a pending local case.

The limitation of the new statute will allow Illinois lawyers to conduct discovery outside of Illinois in those states that have adopted the same or similar act.

The act requires minimal judicial oversight and eliminates the need for obtaining a commission, local counsel and filing a miscellaneous action in the state in which the discovery is being done. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB45, enacting the law in Illinois on July 20, 2015. The law applies to actions that were pending as of Jan. 1, 2016.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed the dismissal of a 42-count fourth amended complaint for damages arising from an automobile accident in December 2009. The case involved injuries to the wife and son of Nicholas Skridla — Margaret and Maxamillian. The appeal pertains only to the claim of spoliation of evidence against defendant Auto Owners Insurance Co. (Auto Owners). The claims against Auto Owners were added in the fourth amended complaint when Auto Owners was joined as a defendant. The other counts of this product-liability and personal-injury action remained pending in the trial court in Winnebago County, Ill.

The plaintiff alleges that the trial court was wrong in dismissing the spoliation counts with prejudice pursuant to Section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure on the grounds that plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to establish that Auto Owners owed plaintiff a duty to preserve the evidence at issue.

Auto Owners argued that the dismissal was proper under Section 2-615 and also maintains that the spoliation count should have been dismissed pursuant to Section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619) for the additional reason that they were untimely, as Auto Owners argued in its combined Section 2-619.1 motion. Auto Owners argued that the spoliation counts were statutorily time-barred.

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The Rev. Timothy O’Malley and William O’Malley were two of Eileen O’Malley’s sons. In 1996, Eileen O’Malley experienced the first signs of dementia. The same year, Eileen and Timothy opened a joint checking account with First Midwest Bank Corp.

Eileen instructed that the account statements be sent to the Palos Country Club, a family asset managed by William O’Malley. Timothy never saw the account statements and so had no way of knowing that it contained almost $5 million in February 2004 and that by February 2009, there was less than $100,000 in the account. William had withdrawn the rest.

William, with two of his siblings, developed a plan “to defraud their 8 siblings and Eileen so that [they] would control Eileen’s assets.” To accomplish that, they had Eileen sign documents, including “wills, trust agreements and checks which did not reflect Eileen’s wishes.”

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On June 20, 2010, Delores Franklin and Todd Gryczewski were in an automobile crash. Slightly more than two years later, on June 12, 2012, Gryczewski sued Franklin for injuries he suffered in that crash. Franklin died on Nov. 24, 2011. Gryczewski had no knowledge of his death at the time of the filing.

About two weeks later, a law firm appeared on Franklin’s behalf and filed a motion to appoint a special administrator. Bob Phillip was appointed special administrator on July 17, 2012.

On June 23, 2014, Phillip filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Phillip argued that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the named defendant, Franklin, was dead. Phillip also argued that the suit had fallen beyond the statute of limitations because it failed to satisfy the requirements needed to file a lawsuit against a deceased person. The court agreed and dismissed the case with prejudice. Gryczewski appealed.

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In the majority opinion given in a substitution of judge denial and subsequent appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court held that the denial of a motion for substitution of judge for cause is not a final order. The court cited the case of In re Marriage of Nettleton, 348 Ill.App.3d 961 (2004). Instead the court stated that it is an interlocutory order that is appealable on review from a final order.

In this case, the HOB I Holding Corp. and the Eva Buziecki Trust appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court when its request for a substitution of judge as a matter of right under Section 2-1001(a)(2) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure was denied. The moving parties relied on Rule 304(a) finding that there was no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of that March 27, 2014 order denying the request for substitution of judge.

The majority opinion – noting “it is well-settled law that the mere inclusion of a Rule 304(a) finding in a non-final order does not make the order appealable under the Supreme Court rules and concluded that Rule 304(a) did not provide this court with jurisdiction because the March 27, 2014, order denying a substitution of judge did not ‘become’ a final order simply by including the statutory language.”

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Under the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure §2-203.1 “Service by Special Order of Court” is allowed if it is impractical to serve someone (a defendant) at his or her place of abode. In that case, the court can direct a comparable method of service in any manner consistent with the process.

A motion to serve someone under Section 2-203.1 requires the movant to provide an affidavit that includes a specific statement that a “diligent inquiry as to the location of the individual” was made. Failure to make a diligent inquiry can result in improper service.

In the case of Sutton v. Ekong, a default judgment was entered in the amount of $199,998.32 because the defendant had defaulted after allegedly been served properly through the Secretary of State of Illinois. Many attempts had been made on the defendant to serve him with summons at his home and by use of a special process server without success. After failing to appear in court, the plaintiff then served the defendant through the Illinois Secretary of State. The court allowed this after the plaintiff asked the trial court for process of service in that fashion.

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The plaintiff Michael Hawkins signed a release when he purchased a gym membership from X-Sport Fitness, which is owned by Capital Fitness Inc. The release document did not expressly cover the unusual hazard of falling mirrors, which occurred at the Chicago facility when a 3-foot by 8-foot mirror fell from a wall protrusion and struck Hawkins on the head while he was performing arm curls at X-Sport’s Logan Square facility. It was alleged that the mirror fell on Hawkins because X-Sport’s employees chose not to properly secure it.

The release document that was signed by Hawkins stated in all capital letters that Hawkins accepted “all risks of injury from using the gym’s equipment and facility”; agreed to hold the company and its affiliates harmless from any injury caused by negligent acts and omissions “arising out of or in any way related to the member’s presence and/or use of the facility”; and released all claims for personal injury that might be caused by improper maintenance of any “exercise equipment or facilities.”

On the basis of that release and its language, the trial judge granted Capital Fitness’s motion for summary judgment in its favor. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed stating that “Because an exculpatory clause is strictly construed against the party it benefits, the clause must identify the range of dangers for which risk of injury is being assumed.” The court added, “We are unable to hold, as a matter of law, that a falling mirror is a danger within the scope of the exculpatory clause.”

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