Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Cases Pending" Highlights Cases to be Heard During Illinois Supreme Court's January Term

By Charlie Ingrassia
Law Clerk to Hon. Susan F. Hutchinson, Illinois Appellate Court, Second District

The Association recently updated Cases Pending, a resource that provides ALA members with up-to-date information on matters pending before the Illinois Supreme Court. The updated edition provides disposition information on decisions from the state's high court through December 18, 2014, and also highlights a number of important cases scheduled for oral argument during the court's January 2015 term. 

To read an excerpt from Cases Pending discussing two cases set to be heard during the court's January term, please continue reading this post. 
Complete access to Cases Pending is complimentary with ALA membership.

No. 117021
Skaperdas et al. v. Country Casualty Ins. Co.
The issue in this appeal is whether insurance agents owe a duty of ordinary care  to their insureds under section 2-2201 of the Code of Civil Procedure (“Code”) (735 ILCS 5/2-2201 (West 2010)).
Cases Pending
Clare J. Quish

Plaintiff Steven Skaperdas purchased an auto insurance policy from Country Casualty Insurance Co. (“Country Casualty”).  Plaintiff asked his insurance agent, Defendant Tom Lessaris, to add his girlfriend and her son to the policy, but Defendant failed to do so.  When Plaintiff later made a claim following an accident involving his girlfriend’s son, Country Casualty denied it.  Plaintiff then sued Defendant for negligence for failing to add his girlfriend and her son to his policy.  The circuit court dismissed the claim, reasoning that because Defendant was an insurance agent, rather than a broker, he did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care in procuring insurance. 

The Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, reversed.  It recognized that under common law, an insurance agent owed a duty to the insurer by which it was employed, and an insurance broker owed a duty directly to an insured.  However, since the enactment of section 2-2201 of the Code, that distinction no longer existed.  Section 2-2201(a) states that an “insurance producer” shall exercise ordinary care and skill in procuring insurance.  Although section 2-2201 does not define “insurance producer,” section 500-10 of the Illinois Insurance Code (215 ILCS 5/500-10 (West 2010)) defines the term as “a person required to be licensed *** to sell, solicit, or negotiate insurance.”  Reading those statutes together, the court concluded that both agents and brokers were “insurance producers” and both owed a duty of ordinary care to the insured.  Its holding was further supported by section 2-2201(b), which removed the common law basis for distinguishing between brokers and agents by barring any claims for breach of fiduciary duty against any insurance producers. 

In his petition for leave to appeal, Defendant argues that Illinois cases and other legal authorities have continued to honor the agent-broker dichotomy subsequent to the enactment of section 2-2201.  He also argues that the legislative history of section 2-2201 demonstrates that it was intended to insulate brokers from liability for breach of fiduciary duty, but did not intend to create a new duty for agents. 

Appellate Court Decision:  2013 IL App (4th) 120986, 996 N.E.2d 1071.  Steigmann, J., with Appleton and Pope, J.J., concurring.
PLA Allowed:  01/29/14
Oral Argument:  01/13/15

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No. 118000
Hadley v. Subscriber Doe
Cases Pending
Joanne R. Driscoll

This case raises several issues concerning the proper procedures for seeking the identity of unknown persons, here, an Internet subscriber who posted alleged defamatory matter about the plaintiff during his political campaign.
The circuit court found that Plaintiff had adequately pled defamation per se and granted Plaintiff relief under Rule 224, ordering disclosure of the identity of Subscriber Doe.  The court also made a Rule 304(a) finding with respect to its ruling granting Rule 224 relief.
The appellate court affirmed both with respect to how Plaintiff invoked Rule 224 and the sufficiency of Plaintiff’s defamation per se allegations.  The court found that it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal because Rule 224 orders are considered final for purposes of appeal, but because the defamation claim remained pending, a Rule 304(a) finding was necessary.  

The dissent disagreed, contending lack of jurisdiction because:  (1) the appealed-from order did not result from a Rule 224 proceeding and, thus, could not be appealed under Rule 301 as an independent action; and (2) the appealed-from order is an ordinary discovery order that is not final or amenable to appeal pursuant to Rule 304(a). 
The petitioner argues that the appellate court decision brings confusion to the requirements of a Rule 224 proceeding and violates the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in Bogseth v. Emanuel, 166 Ill. 2d 507 (1995), that makes any suit filed against a defendant “whose legal name is unknown” a nullity.  The petitioner further argues that the decision conflicts with Guava LLC v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, 2014 IL App (5th) 130091, on the issue of whether the identity of someone associated with a given I.P. Address is a proper subject for a Rule 224 petition when an I.P. Address is frequently a shared portal to the Internet.  Lastly, the petitioner argues that the circuit and appellate courts erred in sanctioning the use of extra-judicially acquired information to supplement the complaint’s defamation allegations to reject application of the innocent construction rule and First Amendment protections of speech.
Appellate Court Decision:  2014 IL App (2d) 130489, 12 N.E.3d 75.  Jorgensen, J. with Zenoff, J., concurring.  Birkett, J., dissenting.
PLA Allowed:  09/24/14
Oral Argument:  01/22/15

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