Injured Plaintiff Barred Because of Late Arrival at Arbitration

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed a decision of a Cook County judge barring testimony of the plaintiff, Bettie Payton-White, because she was more than 15 minutes late to a court-mandated arbitration session.

In November 2010, a car crash occurred between the motor vehicle driven by Bettie Payton-White and one driven by the defendant, Anthony Weir.  In August 2011, Payton-White filed a personal injury lawsuit against Weir claiming that the collision was caused by Weir’s negligent driving.  Weir denied that he was negligent, and the court assigned the lawsuit to mandatory arbitration scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on May 29, 2012.

At the arbitration session, neither Payton-White nor her representative was present.  At 8:45 a.m., after allowing a 15-minute grace period, the arbitrator entered a decision in Weir’s favor and awarded $436 in costs to Weir because of Payton-White’s failure to appear. 

That arbitration order noted that Payton-White and her counsel appeared at 8:48 a.m. and the defendant had already left.  Weir moved to bar Payton-White from opposing the award and argued that her choosing not to appear effectively left her in default.

Payton-White answered that she was late because of health reasons related to the lawsuit.  Payton-White wrote in her response that she had arrived at the arbitration center at 8:46 a.m. and that the defendant had “been allowed by the arbitrators to leave.” 

Payton-White stated that when she arrived, the award was being entered for Weir and argued that “a party who appears before the hearing has concluded cannot be barred on the basis of non-attendance.”

Payton-White also argued that she had acted in good faith.  She  maintained that the 15-minute grace period suggested in the arbitration manual was not a binding limit on the arbitrator. 

Weir answered the claim that Payton-White’s health condition was unsubstantiated and there was no evidence attached to the appeal.  Further, Weir maintained that bad faith was not limited to intentional obstruction, but could also be linked to intentional disregard or inept preparation.  The trial judge agreed with Weir and found that Payton-White was barred from rejecting the judgment entered at arbitration.  Payton-White appealed. 

The appellate court rejected Payton-White’s arguments noting that Payton-White had failed to include in the record a transcript of any of the hearings, including the Circuit Court’s hearing on the motion to bar the rejection of the decision.

The appellate court made it clear that in the absence of a complete record, the court must presume in any case where there is no evidence otherwise, that the orders conformed to the law and had sufficient basis.  Because Payton-White was unable to provide a complete transcript of the hearings before the Circuit Court judge, the appellate court affirmed the Circuit Court’s decision, and the case was dismissed. 

Bettie Payton-White v. Anthony Weir, 2014 IL App (1st) 123508-U.

Robert D. Kreisman is handling mediation and arbitration for individuals, families and businesses.  In addition, the law firm, Kreisman Law Offices has been handling trial litigation matters for individuals, families and businesses for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Mount Prospect, Glen Ellyn, Vernon Hills, Wheaton, Western Springs, Highwood, Highland Park, LaGrange, Morton Grove, Niles, Skokie, Des Plaines and Flossmoor, Ill. 

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