Articles Posted in Court trends

Emanuele Secci was injured after his motorcycle was involved in a crash with the defendant Aram Tonakanian, who was driving a green and white taxi marked with United Independent Taxi Drivers‘ insignia. The jury found that Tonakanian was United’s agent, but not an employee. With that verdict, the trial court granted United’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) under the state’s code of civil procedure.

The appeal of that trial judge’s order resulted in an appeal where the appellate court reversed the trial court’s order and reinstated the jury’s verdict. In doing so, the appeals panel concluded that California law does not preclude consideration of controls required by public regulations in finding an agency relationship.

In this case, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Secci, the appellate court concluded that the evidence presented at trial was more than sufficient to support a jury finding that Tonakanian, the taxi driver whom the jury found responsible for the crash and Secci’s injuries, that he was United’s agent and thus, United was vicariously liable for Tonakanian’s acts.

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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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The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed a decision by a trial judge and the Illinois Appellate Court that dismissed a lawsuit against the East Joliet Fire Protection District regarding the death of Coretta Coleman. Her family claimed that the defendant, East Joliet Fire Protection District and its ENTs, were both negligent and willful and wanton in their conduct for choosing not to respond to a 911 call.

Coleman had called an ambulance by 911 because she was having difficulty breathing. This happened in June 2008. She gave the 911 dispatcher her address and told the person to “hurry.”  The 911 dispatcher asked Coleman to hold and transferred the call from the Will County dispatch to the Orland Central dispatch.

Deviating from written protocol, the Will County dispatch hung up after making a transfer without communicating to Orland Central dispatch the nature of the emergency. When Orland Central dispatch attempted to ask Coleman questions, it received no response and did not know whether the call was dropped or if Coleman was still on the line. The Orland Central dispatch staffer hung up and placed the call in line for an ambulance dispatch.

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The Illinois Supreme Court has affirmed an order of the circuit court judge who granted a petition filed by the guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor, A.A., to vacate a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) signed by the respondents Matthew A. and Caitlin S. with regard to the minor. The appellate court affirmed and held that after DNA testing established that Matthew was not the biological father of A.A., the trial court was not required to make a “best interest of the child” determination prior to granting the petition.

Following A.A.’s birth on April 26, 2013, Matthew and Caitlin signed a VAP pursuant to section 6(a) of the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, 750 ILCS 45/6(a). Caitlin, A.A.’s mother had been married to Jakob S., who signed a denial of paternity as to A.A.

On June 10, 2013, the state filed a petition for adjudication of wardship in juvenile court following an investigation of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) into the conditions of the home where A.A. was living with Caitlin, Matthew and Caitlin’s three other children. The state claimed that there was neglect and an injurious environment based upon inadequate supervision, lack of cleanliness in the home and hygiene issues concerning the four children.

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In a recent Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article, retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge Hon. Dennis Dohm wrote that the clear language found in Illinois’ 1970 Constitution, Section 13 titled “Trial by Jury,” of Article I’s Bill of Rights states that “the right of trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate.”

Judge Dohm compared that language of the 1970 Illinois Constitution to the State’s 1870 Constitution on jury trials, which stated, “The right of trial by jury as heretofore shall remain inviolate [but the trial of civil cases before justices of the peace by a jury of less than 12 men may be authorized by law].” The 1970 Constitution language as shown above includes none of that language that is shown in brackets. Justices of the peace were abolished by the 1962 Judicial Article to the 1870 Illinois Constitution.

It may be of historical note that in 1818 and 1848, Illinois had enacted constitutions that likewise stated that the right of trial by a jury was mandated by similar language as found in the 1870 and 1970 constitutions.

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√On Nov. 4, 2008, Ulrika Bjorkstam and Joseph Daniel Dray were injured in a plane crash in Mexico City.

On Nov. 3, 2009, the two injured parties filed a lawsuit against MPC Products Corp and Woodward Inc., which manufactured the horizontal stabilizer actuator that the plaintiffs alleged was faulty in the plane in which they were traveling.

MPC and Woodward’s principal place of business was in Illinois. However, the companies moved for a dismissal on the grounds of forum non conveniens, arguing that Harris County, Texas, was the more appropriate forum for this case. Forum non conveniens is Latin term used in the law that pertains to the place that is considered most convenient for the parties, discovery of the facts of the case and the eventual trial. In Illinois, the legal concept of forum non conveniens is discretionary with the judge presiding. The factors of the place of the controversy, the witnesses’ location, the residence of the defendant, the location of the place where a contract was made and other similar issues are weighed by the court if the venue of the case is challenged.

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In September 2010, Thomas Berz was riding his bike in an Evanston alley when he hit a pothole. Berz fell off his bike and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He sued the City of Evanston in July 2011 claiming that it was negligent for choosing not to maintain the surface of the alley. A month later, Evanston filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/1-101 et seq.) protects the city from plaintiffs who are injured from using property differently than its intended use. 

The circuit court judge dismissed the case in November 2011, but granted Berz leave to amend his complaint. Berz amended the complaint providing new photographs of the alley’s condition and included greater detail on how this incident took place. Berz argued that under the Evanston Municipal Code and city-published bicycle maps, he was an intended user of the alley.

However, the trial court disagreed with Berz and dismissed his amended complaint in August 2012. But Berz filed a third amended complaint, arguing that his bike was a vehicle and therefore an intended user. Again, the city moved to dismiss arguing that a bicycle rider was not an intended user of an alley and the court agreed dismissing Berz’s complaint in November 2012.  Berz appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, which reviewed whether a bicyclist was considered an intended user of the alley based on state law, the city’s ordinance and signage in the alley.

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During a relay race at a party for members of the Calvary Kids Club (CKC), a running backwards race resulted in an injury to one of the children, who broke both of her arms. The event was sponsored by the Calvary Chapel of Lake Villa.

The lawsuit for the injuries to Brittney Gallarneau was brought alleging that Calvary Chapel was negligent. The issue on the motion for summary judgment brought by the defendant Calvary Chapel was whether the Calvary Kid’s Club qualified as a school under Section 24-24 of the Illinois school law. The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of Calvary Chapel, and this appeal followed.

The Illinois Appellate Court reversing the trial judge’s grant of summary judgment concluded that, “While Calvary provides religious instructions through Calvary Kid’s Club (CKC), CKC is nevertheless not the type of establishment that comes within the scope of Section 24-24; thus, Calvary is not entitled to the immunity provided by that section.”

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a bill into law that would require defendants in most civil cases to submit to plaintiffs an executed release within 14 days of a written settlement agreement. The new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Significantly, the new law will require a defendant to pay all of the settlement amounts to the plaintiff within 30 days of the date that the signed release is tendered to the defendant. If the defendant fails to timely pay the money required by the agreement, the plaintiff can return to court on a motion for added costs and interest.

The law will create a new “Part 23” of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure to be titled “Settlement of Claims; Payment” (735 ILCS 5/2-2301).

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Great caution must be taken when multi-count lawsuits are filed and a voluntary dismissal considered. Suppose one of the three counts of the complaint turns out to be unsustainable and a voluntary dismissal is taken as to Count II leaving Counts I and III.  The voluntary dismissal as to that count II amounts to a dismissal with prejudice.

Suppose further that as the case remains, the case reaches a point where the plaintiff makes a decision to voluntarily dismiss without the remaining two-count complaint under Illinois Code of Civil Procedure §2-1009, which allows the refiling of the case within one year.

This is where it becomes very tricky. Under the Hudson v. City of Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court set out the issue as:  “Whether the involuntary dismissal of plaintiffs’ negligence claim and plaintiffs’ subsequent voluntary dismissal of their remaining willful and wanton misconduct claim (against the City of Chicago) barred the refiling of their willful and wanton misconduct claim under the doctrine of res judicata.” What the Illinois Supreme Court was looking at is that in Hudson, the original complaint was two counts. The first count sounded in negligence and the second willful and wanton misconduct.  Under the law, the City and its employees had immunity under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act. 210 ILCS 50/3.150.