Illinois Appellate Court Weighs in on Limited Joinder

In April 2009, the plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against James W. Hall, Cassandra McCord, JWH Management Inc. and JWH Family Partnership Ltd. Right after the lawsuit was brought, another group of plaintiffs filed a separate lawsuit naming some of the same defendants and then others. 

In the first litigation — the Bernstein litigation — the defendants were sued for breach of four promissory notes in the amount of $450,000. 

In the second lawsuit, the BMD litigation, Heiman and Sussex were defendants in the second lawsuit, but not in the Bernstein litigation. The defendants in the BMD litigation moved to consolidate the two cases pointing out that in both, James W. Hall and the JWH Family Partnership were being sued for failing to honor promissory notes;  in both cases, these defendants were moving for dismissal, claiming lack of personal jurisdiction. 

The trial judge agreed to consolidate the cases, but expressly ordered that they were to be consolidated “for discovery purposes only.”  Ultimately, at the end of discovery, the trial judge denied the motion to dismiss, finding the necessary minimum contacts in both cases for jurisdiction.

On Oct. 31, 2011, the Bernstein plaintiffs were granted summary judgment on their case with a ruling to come as to the amount due under the notes. Final judgment was entered in favor of the Bernstein plaintiffs in the amount of $876,933.07 on Jan. 19, 2012. On Feb. 8, 2012, the plaintiffs in the Bernstein litigation moved to deconsolidate or to separate the cases.That motion was granted and the defendants appealed. 

The appellate court never arrived at a conclusion on the merits of the appeal. Although neither party challenged jurisdiction, the court found that it was obligated to consider it sua sponte.In this case, the question was whether the appeal was timely.

If the appeal was untimely,  the appellate court lacked jurisdiction and the appeal must be dismissed. A timely appeal “must be filed within 30 days after the entry of the order disposing of the last pending post-judgment motion directed against the judgment or order.”

In this case, the motion for deconsolidation was filed on Feb. 8, 2012, whereas the Jan. 9, 2012 final judgment was the “last pending post-judgment motion directed against the judgment.”

The consolidation between the Bernstein litigation and the BMD litigation was not a full joinder. The circuit court judge had explicitly set out that the consolidation was only for discovery. If the cases had been fully joined, then only once Bernstein and BMD were separated could any judgment for Bernstein be final without a final judgment on BMD’s case as well.

Because the cases were only joined for discovery, the final judgment in favor of Bernstein, ended the case triggering the 30-day deadline JWH faced when filing for appeal. 

The Illinois Appellate Court found the Bernstein litigation case had closed on Jan. 19, not on Feb. 8.  Although JWH filed the appeal within 30 days of the separation motion, the appeal was not filed  within 30 days of the “last pending post-judgment motion directed against the judgment or order.”

Accordingly, the appellate court found that the appeal by JWH was not filed on time and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Marshall J. Stein Revocable Trust, et al. v. JWH Management, Inc., et al., No. 2013 IL App. (1st) 120609-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling injury cases and business litigation matters for individuals and families for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bridgeview, Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, Des Plaines, Niles, Oakbrook, Hinsdale, Countryside, Hickory Hills, Evergreen Park, Chicago (Lawndale), Chicago (Logan Square), Chicago (Wicker Park) and Palos Park, Ill.

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