Illinois Appellate Court Agrees with Dismissal of Appeal in Injury Case

On Aug. 31, 2009, the plaintiff, Juan Zamora, filed a lawsuit alleging negligence against the defendants for injuries he suffered.  A lawsuit was filed against defendants Cheri and Paul Payne. On March 24, 2010, that lawsuit was dismissed because it was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and included an Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) finding. On April 23, 2010, Zamora filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal. On June 29, 2009, the trial judge allowed the defendants leave to file a third-party complaint seeking contribution against Ricardo Montiel, Newsboy Delivery Systems,

Inc. and Unique Distribution Services, Inc.

On July 11, 2012, more than two years after the Paynes filed their third-party claim, the trial court dismissed the Payne defendants’ contribution claim. On that date, Zamora asked the trial judge to make a new Rule 304(a) finding with respect to the March 24, 2010 dismissal order. On July 24, 2012, Zamora filed a notice of appeal regarding the March 24, 2010 dismissal order and the subsequent denial of his motion to reconsider.  On May 14, 2013, the trial judge dismissed all remaining causes of action directed against the Payne defendants. On June 5, 2013, Zamora filed the notice of appeal initiating the current appeal seeking reversal of the March 24, 2010 dismissal and the March 20, 2013 denial of his motion to renew the March 2010 Rule 304(a) finding.

 Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) allows for the appeal of a final judgment in a case involving multiple claims or parties where the judgment concerns “one or more but fewer than all of the parties or claims.” To allow for a judgment to be appealed under the Rule, the trial court must make a finding that “there is no just reason for delaying either enforcement or appeal or both.”  Ill.S.Ct.R. 304(a) (eff. Jan. 1, 2006).

According to the appellate court’s decision, once a court has made a Rule 304(a) finding, it is not necessary for the court to make another such finding when it denies a motion to reconsider.  McCorry v. Gooneratne, 332 Ill.App. 3d 935, 941 (2002).

In its discussion of this case, the court referred to Peterson Bros. Plastics, Inc. v. Ullo, 57 Ill.App.3d 625 (1978). In the Peterson case, the First District resolved an issue related on appeal bearing similar procedural circumstances as the Zamora case.  However, the court found that the Peterson case and the Zamora fact situation were distinguishable. Unlike in Peterson, Zamora did not present a new claim after the judgment in favor of defendants became final and appealable and the period for appeal had run. The Payne defendants received leave to file their contribution claim prior to the resolution of plaintiff’s motion to reconsider, but that claim was not actually filed until more than 30 days after the trial court result of plaintiff’s motion to reconsider. 

The appellate court also stated that like the case in Ganci, it is reluctant to attach jurisdictional significance to the fact that the Payne defendants obtained leave to file their claim before the trial court resolved plaintiff’s motion to reconsider.  The court found that the result would be a cumbersome rule of procedure. The court said that if it were to treat obtaining leave to file a claim in the same manner as filing the claim itself, what would become of plaintiff’s ability to appeal pursuant to Rule 304(a) in the interim period between obtaining leave and filing the claim? 

In conclusion, the appellate court stated that it wanted to provide context for its holding. Rule 304(a) serves largely to further the goal of judicial efficiency. One of its primary purposes is, in the absence of a compelling reason, to discourage piecemeal appeals.  In re Marriage of Gutman, 232 Ill.2d 145, 151 (2008).  “We realize that, on some rare occasions, allowing a party to proceed with an appeal after another party seeks leave to add a claim might result in a piecemeal appeal being taken. However, it is equally undesirable to require a party to repeatedly return to the trial court to seek a new Rule 304(a) finding with every change in circumstances . . . In short, any reduction in judicial efficiency will be minimal and likely offset by the enhancement of efficiency in the trial court.” Accordingly, the court held that Zamora’s failure to file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the trial court’s resolution of its motion to reconsider the March 24, 2010 dismissal of its claims against the Payne defendants, deprives this court of jurisdiction over this appeal. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Juan Zamora v. Ricardo Montiel, Newsboy Delivery Systems, Inc. and Unique Distribution Services, Inc., No. 2013 IL App. (2d) 130579; No. 02-13-0579 (Aug. 19, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling litigation matters for businesses and individuals for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Elgin, Joliet, Waukegan, St. Charles, Hinsdale, Wheaton, Lindenhurst, Lisle, Long Grove, Midlothian, Naperville, Northbrook, Palos Heights, Palos Heights and Plainfield, Ill.

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