Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

The contract clause of the United States Constitution restricts the power of states to disrupt contractual arrangements. It provides that “No state shall  pass any . . . law impairing the obligation of contracts.” U.S. Const., Art. I, ¶ 10, cl. 1.

This was a case about life insurance proceeds. It generated a single dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court about the Constitution’s contract clause, which prohibits states from enacting laws that impair the obligation of contracts.

Mark Sveen named his wife, Kaye Melin, as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy he purchased in 1998. A 2002 Minnesota statute automatically revoked the designation (as beneficiary) when the couple divorced in 2007. Sveen’s children from a prior marriage claimed the life insurance proceeds as contingent beneficiaries when he died in 2011.

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Skylar Dimick was injured when he fell into a septic tank on the property owned by the defendant Scott Hopkinson. Dimick and his wife filed a negligence lawsuit against Hopkinson and his businesses, family trust and his wife, Chris Hopkinson.

In addition to the negligence count, the Dimick lawsuit also sought punitive damages for the defendants’ alleged willful and wanton misconduct.

The district court in this case granted summary judgment to all of the defendants concluding that: (1) Hopkinson and his businesses were protected by a valid release of liability that was signed by Dimick; (2) Hopkinson committed no willful and wanton act; (3) Chris Hopkinson (Scott’s wife) was neither a proximate cause of Dimick’s injuries nor was she engaged in a joint venture with Scott; and (4) the family trust of the Hopkinson did not exist.

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The defendant in this federal lawsuit owned two homes. One was in California and the other was in Wisconsin. Craig Cunningham filed a lawsuit against Michael Montes and tried to serve Montes at his Wisconsin address. No one came to the door. The process server called Montes; he refused to provide his current location. After an ex parte submission by Cunningham, the U.S. District Court judge authorized service by publication.

Cunningham published notice in periodicals that circulate only in the Midwest. When Montes did not answer the complaint, the district court entered a default.

After learning of the lawsuit from a defendant in another of Cunningham’s lawsuits, Montes asked the court to set aside the default. The judge declined, stating that Montes had persistently tried to evade service in both California and Wisconsin. The judge then entered judgment for more than $175,000. Montes appealed.

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A jury found that the defendant Charles Dahms acted negligently and with willful and wanton misconduct against the plaintiff, Terry Enadeghe, when he beat him with his briefcase during a morning encounter on the street. Dahms appealed arguing that the trial judge erred in relying on his prior criminal conviction for battery as a basis for liability and in denying jury instructions and special interrogatories. Furthermore, the defendant contended that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the defendant’s motions for mistrial and permitting the plaintiff to amend his complaint.

On March 20, 2013, following a criminal jury trial, defendant Dahms was found guilty of aggravated battery on a public way, 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(c), for the incident in this case. He was sentenced to eighteen months’ probation.  On appeal, the criminal conviction was affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the defendant’s petition for leave to appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for certiorari.

The evidence in the criminal case showed that in October 2011, Enadeghe was driving his taxicab in downtown Chicago when he stopped at a traffic light in the middle of the crosswalk, unintentionally blocking it.  Dahms, the defendant, then approached and smashed his briefcase into the taxi’s front windshield shattering it and then walked away. Enadeghe parked and confronted Dahms, asking him to survey the damage to his cab. At one point, Enadeghe attempted to block Dahms and grabbed the briefcase.  Enadeghe, the plaintiff, then felt a “bang” on his face as Dahms took his briefcase once again, and using it to hit Enadeghe in the nose, knocked him unconscious.  Enadeghe was hospitalized and received eleven stitches from the bridge of his nose to under his eye. He later had surgery under general anesthesia. Dahms was subsequently arrested and Enadeghe identified him in a police lineup.

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Cameron Hansen, 48, was a cement mason working at a construction site at Loretto Hospital at 645 Central Ave. in Chicago. The defendant in this case was Stone Mountain Access Systems Inc., which was the company that provided the scaffolding at the job site. Stone Mountain was responsible for designing and consulting for the building of this scaffold for this job.

Hansen was attempting to disassemble the scaffolding on Nov. 11, 2010 when it tipped over and he fell to the ground. Hansen sustained a traumatic brain injury along with unspecified injuries to his neck, left shoulder, left hip and left knee. He required five surgeries and physical therapy. The injuries left him with permanent disability.

He blamed Stone Mountain for the placement of counter-weights for the scaffold falling over and this accident. Stone Mountain maintained that there was nothing wrong with the equipment or the way the scaffold was built and argued that Hansen’s dismantling of the scaffold was the sole cause of the scaffold’s fall.

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Kathleen Waldeck was driving a car that was alleged to have rear-ended the car of the plaintiff, Andice Peacock, causing her injuries. Peacock had alleged that her car was rear-ended by Waldeck while waiting for a stoplight to turn green.

The lawsuit alleged that Peacock’s vehicle was stopped at a red light when the collision occurred, and “there were no visual obstructions to block defendant’s view of plaintiff’s vehicle.”  In the Waldeck answer, she admitted her car rear-ended Peacock’s vehicle and that her view was not obstructed.  In the meantime, before bringing this summary judgment motion, Waldeck passed away.  Her representative of the estate, Barton Waldeck, argued that the Dead-Man’s Act barred Peacock from testifying about this car crash.

A DuPage County, Ill., circuit court judge granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Kathleen Waldeck. Peacock appealed.

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By July 1, 2017, e-filing of civil cases in Illinois will be mandatory for the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Appellate Courts. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, e-filing of civil cases will be mandated for all Illinois courts.

The Illinois Supreme Court entered an order this year, M.R.18368, which set the timeline for mandatory e-filings statewide. A unified e-filing system is designed to increase court efficiency and streamline the litigation process for lawyers and pro se litigants.

The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) has hired Texas-based Tyler Technologies to roll out a centralized, statewide e-filing system. The Tyler Technologies’ platform is currently being used in 19 states.

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Raymond Berke fell in the vestibule of an apartment building where he and his wife were staying with friends. A doorman heard but did not see him fall. There were no eyewitnesses. He suffered spinal injuries that rendered him a quadriplegic. He has no memory of his fall.

Berke filed a lawsuit against the building owner and the management company claiming that the vestibule area, stairs and doorway, in particular, were improperly designed and maintained and were a direct and proximate cause of his injuries.  His wife brought a loss of consortium claims against both defendants.

The defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial judge entered judgment in their favor. The Berkes argued that they presented sufficient admissible evidence to support their prima facie case of premises liability that would preclude summary judgment. They also contended that the trial court erred in striking parts of their expert witness affidavits, submitted in support of their response to defendants’ summary judgment motion and that the court should have granted their motion to cite supplemental authority.

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A contract was entered into between Beckett Media LLC and OnRamp Technologies to allow Beckett to use OnRamp’s applications and websites for “inventory management and sales solution.” According to the contract, “in the event of any litigation of any controversy or dispute arising out of or related to this agreement, the prevailing party shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

On Oct. 1, 2010, Beckett filed a lawsuit against OnRamp claiming breach of contract, unjust enrichment and violation of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Consumer Fraud of Deceptive Business Practices Act.

During the trial, the parties voluntarily dismissed the claims about violation of the two deceptive practices act. Beckett filed an amended complaint for unjust enrichment, breach of contract and replevin, seeking the return of its server as well as money damages incurred by OnRamp’s refusal to return the server.

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The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has affirmed a judgment that pierced the corporate veil of a closely held corporation and then awarded the plaintiff attorney fees connected to this litigation. The case was reported to be one of first impression in Illinois.

Steiner Electric sold electrical products on credit to Delta Equipment Co., a corporation wholly owned by an individual, Leonard Maniscalco. Although there were many attempts to collect payment, Steiner finally sued Delta and obtained a default judgment for the purchase price plus interest, attorney fees and costs. By the time judgment was entered, Delta no longer existed. Steiner  filed suit against Maniscalco and Sackett Systems Inc., another corporation wholly owned by Maniscalco. That lawsuit sought to pierce Delta’s corporate veil and hold both Maniscalco, individually and Sackett Systems Inc., liable for the default judgment.

Steiner was successful in proving that it was entitled to pierce the veil wherein both Maniscalco and Sackett Systems appealed from that order.

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