Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Jury Verdict Denying Settlement Offer Based on Collateral Attack Doctrine

The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has affirmed the jury’s verdict in a personal injury case. On Feb. 16, 2013, Joanna Tielke was bowling at a facility run by Kevin Killerman and 3124 N. Central LLC. Tielke slipped while bowling and fell, suffering a severe injury.  She filed a lawsuit against North Central, Killerman and Manor Bowling.

There were two different law firms that represented the various defendants.  On Sept. 26, 2017, attorney Tara Ryniec-Stanek made an open court settlement offer to Tielke of $700,000. This was before trial.

That night, Ryniec-Stanek sent a text to Tielke confirming that the $700,000 offer was still available and that if accepted, the check would be delivered on Sept. 29.  On Sept. 27, Tielke spoke to Ryniec-Stanek and accepted the offer; she also confirmed the acceptance via text message to her.

However, 15 minutes later, before court reconvened, Ryniec-Stanek informed Tielke that the settlement offer was withdrawn. Tielke demanded it be honored, but Ryniec-Stanek refused, at which point Tielke raised the matter with the trial court. which informed her that, after trial, if she were to receive less than $700,000, she could file a breach of contract lawsuit.

The court denied Tielke any other relief.

Following a jury trial, a verdict in favor of Tielke and against Manor Bowling was entered for $332,425 finding Killerman and North Central not liable. Two days later, Tielke made a written demand to Auto Owners Insurance Co., who insured Manor Bowling, for the full $700,000 offer.

Ryniec-Stanek responded, denying that a settlement had been reached prior to the offer being withdrawn. A check was sent to Tielke for $332,425, which she accepted as payment of the jury verdict only, stating that she was still owed $367,575 — the difference between the jury verdict and $700,000.  Tielke filed the instant lawsuit, a breach of contract case against North Central, Killerman Auto Owners and Ryniec-Stanek among others.

The defendants argued that the breach of contract claim was an improper collateral attack on the judgment in the personal-injury case and “was also barred by res judicata, judicial estoppel and accord and satisfaction.”

The trial judge granted dismissal, finding that the instant lawsuit was a collateral attack on the order denying Tielke’s motion to enforce the settlement agreement from the original lawsuit. Tielke appealed.

On appeal, she argued that the collateral attack doctrine only prevents collateral attacks on the final judgment and that her attack was on the order refusing to enforce the settlement, not the final judgment that was entered.

The Illinois Appellate Court disagreed, emphasizing that the proper course for Tielke would have been to have raised the matter in a post-trial motion and, if denied, file an appeal in the underlying personal-injury case.

The Illinois Appellate Court noted that precedent held that “interlocutory orders in a case are as insusceptible to collateral attack as is the final judgment.”

Tielke finally argued that the collateral attack doctrine should not apply because her lawsuit was filed on the advice of a judge in the personal-injury action. The appeals panel stated, “A party should not be excused from following rules intended to preserve issues for review by relying on a trial court’s erroneous belief that an issue was properly preserved for review.”

Accordingly, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision dismissing the breach of contract lawsuit.

Joanna Tielke v. Auto Owners Insurance Co., et al., 2019 IL App (1st) 181756 (Aug. 16, 2019).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury lawsuits, motorcycle injury lawsuits, truck accident lawsuits, car accident lawsuits and nursing home abuse cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Antioch, Mundelein, Naperville, Mokena, New Lenox, Lansing, Orland Park, Palos Hills, Round Lake Beach, Schaumburg, Schiller Park, University Park, Country Club Hills, Vernon Hills, Chicago (Back of the Yards, Pullman, Englewood, West Rogers Park, Jefferson Park, Lakeview, Chinatown, Lincoln Park, River North, Gresham, Garfield Park), Zion, Glenview, Northfield and Matteson, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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