Illinois Supreme Court Hears Argument Regarding Service of Summons on Deceased Defendant in Car Accident Case; Relf v. Shatayeva, etc.

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in a car accident case regarding a lawsuit brought against a deceased motorist. Two years after a 2008 car crash, the plaintiff, Sandra Relf, filed a personal injury lawsuit against a motorist she believed was negligent in causing her injuries.

The issue in this case was that the defendant, the man that Relf sued, had died three months after the car crash. Under Illinois law, there is a procedure for the event of the death of a plaintiff or defendant during the course of the legal process. In this case, the trial court ruled in favor of the defendant, finding that Relf had not properly sued the correct party, the estate of the decedent. But on appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court First District overturned that order.

On review by the Illinois Supreme Court, the plaintiff contended that she was unaware that the defendant, Joseph Grand Pre Jr., had died. Once Relf learned of the death of Pre, she amended the complaint and named an employee of the plaintiff’s lawyer’s staff as the special administrator of the Pre estate. However, as a matter of fact, Pre’s family had opened a probate estate months before Relf filed the original lawsuit. The defendant argued that Relf should have known by a simple on-line search of the Cook County court system that the defendant, Pre, had died and opened up a probate estate.

The accident report listed “Joseph Grand” as the party instead of his correct name, which was Joseph Grand Pre Jr. Because the defendant was errantly identified in the police report, it was nearly impossible for the plaintiff and counsel to search the court system to learn that the correct party defendant had died before the filing of the lawsuit and that a probate estate had been opened in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Probate Division.

Plaintiff’s counsel, David Nemeroff, argued that Pre’s insurance company was well aware of the lawsuit and was informed of the special administrator having been substituted for the name of the deceased defendant. The insurance company chose not to inform plaintiff’s counsel of the correct name of the decedent and also that a probate estate had been opened.

It was further submitted to the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court that the estate was not at risk for any exposure and the only party at risk was the decedent’s insurance company. The case is now under consideration by the Illinois Supreme Court, which will later issue its written decision.

Sandra Relf v. Natasha Shatayeva, etc., No. 114925.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accidents, car crashes and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Alsip, Summit, Homewood, Highwood, Maywood, Chicago (Washington Park), Wheaton, Glenview, Glencoe and Winnetka, Ill.

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