Tuesday, January 12, 2016

ALA's Cases Pending Previews Illinois Supreme Court's January Term

Cases Pending, edited by Clare J. Quish (pictured left) and Gretchen Sperry, has been updated to discuss the Illinois Supreme Court’s January Term that began Monday, January 11, 2016, with oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday, January 12, 2016, and Thursday, January 14, 2016. A total of 5 cases will be heard – 2 civil and 3 criminal. Here are the civil cases with the dates of oral argument:
Jeffrey W. Vaughn v. The City of Carbondale, No. 119181—January 14
Michael Richter v. Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., No. 119518—January 14
The Court will hear two civil cases of interest this term: Richter v. Prairie Farms Dairy, which involves res judicata as it pertains to involuntary dismissal of claims, and Vaughn v. City of Carbondale, which involves the Public Security Employee Benefits Act. Below are abbreviated summaries for these two cases. Summaries for these cases and others listed above can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on our website.
No. 119518
Richter v. Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.
The issue in this case is whether an order dismissing a claim without prejudice under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the “Code”) (735 ILCS 5/2-615) becomes a final adjudication on the merits that bars any subsequent related litigation, where the dismissed claim is not refiled and the remaining claims are voluntarily dismissed after the time allowed for re-pleading expires.
Plaintiffs Michael and Denise Richter, doing business as Rich-Lane Farms, filed a three-count complaint against Defendant Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., alleging various claims relating to consumer fraud and shareholder disputes.  The fraud claims were dismissed under section 2-615 of the Code, with leave to replead within 30 days.  Plaintiffs never refiled their fraud claims and, instead, proceeded on their claim seeking shareholder remedies.  They subsequently voluntarily dismissed their shareholder remedies claims under section 2-1009 of the Code.  Plaintiffs refiled their action less than one year later, again asserting claims for shareholder remedies and adding claims for fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty.  Defendant moved to dismiss the refiled case under section 2-619 of the Code, arguing that the circuit court’s order dismissing the fraud claims became a final adjudication on the merits after Plaintiffs failed to refile those claims and then voluntarily dismissed their remaining claims. According to Defendant, Plaintiffs’ refiled action was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.  The circuit court agreed with Defendant and granted its motion to dismiss.

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed, holding that the circuit court’s order dismissing the fraud claims under section 2-615 was not a final judgment.  The circuit court provided “no indication that anything was ‘absolutely and finally’ settled” when the fraud claims were dismissed; rather, by allowing Plaintiffs additional time to file amended claims, the circuit court concluded that Plaintiffs could cure their pleading defects.  Because the dismissal was not a final adjudication on the merits, it did not become a final, appealable order on the entry of voluntary dismissal, and could not act as a bar in a refiled case under the doctrine of res judicata.
In its petition for leave to appeal, Defendant argued that the appellate court’s interpretation ignores the circuit court’s restrictions on Plaintiffs’ ability to replead.  Defendant argued that when Plaintiffs failed to replead within the time allowed, they lost the right to do so and the dismissal order became final. Thus, Defendant argued, Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata following their voluntary dismissal.
Appellate Court Opinion:  2015 IL App (4th) 140613, 34 N.E.3d 617. Pope, P.J., with Turner, J., and Steigmann, J., concurring.
PLA Allowed: September 30, 2015.
No. 119181
Vaughn v. City of Carbondale
The issue presented in this appeal is whether Plaintiff was entitled to a permanent injunction requiring the City of Carbondale to provide him and his spouse with lifetime health insurance benefits under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (the “Act”) (820 ILCS 320/10).
Plaintiff, a Carbondale police officer, was injured when he hit his head on his patrol car as he responded to a non-emergency call from a dispatcher.  Plaintiff completed his shift and then sought medical attention.  Plaintiff was removed from duty due to his injury.  Plaintiff later applied for and received an in line of duty pension.  The City of Carbondale also provided family health insurance while Plaintiff received his pension.  Plaintiff was then asked to submit to a medical examination.  He complied and was found fit to return to duty as a police officer.  The City of Carbondale then terminated his pension.  The decision was affirmed on administrative review but later reversed by the Fifth District Appellate Court which reinstated the pension based on a failure to provide Plaintiff due process.
Plaintiff in the meantime sought a permanent injunction against the City of Carbondale requiring it to permanently provide him and his family with lifetime health insurance benefits under the PSEBA.  The circuit court found that Plaintiff did not suffer a catastrophic injury and dismissed the injunction complaint.  The Fifth District Appellate Court reversed and held that because Plaintiff was injured when he was responding to a dispatcher’s call, which could have been an emergency, he was entitled to benefits under the Act.
The City of Carbondale argues in its petition for leave to appeal that Plaintiff did not satisfy the criteria to qualify for benefits under the Act.  Although the City acknowledged that while Plaintiff’s injury may have been “catastrophic” under section 10(a) of the Act, he was not injured while in fresh pursuit; was not responding to an emergency; was not injured while responding to an unlawful act of another; or injured in the investigation of a criminal act as expressly required under section 10(b) of the Act.  To the contrary, the City argues that the Fifth District Appellate Court created a new basis not provided for in the statute—that injuries sustained in responding to any call from a dispatcher, even if not an emergency, satisfies the section 10(b) criteria entitling an officer and his family to lifetime health insurance benefits.
The City also argues that its ability to terminate benefits is not limited to a showing of fraud in the initial procurement of benefits, as the Appellate Court held.  The City instead contends that benefits may be terminated if Plaintiff is no longer eligible for such benefits or the benefits were improperly extended in the first instance.
Appellate Court Opinion:  2015 IL App (5th) 140122. Welch, J., with Cates, P.J., and Goldenhersh, J., concurring.
PLA Allowed:  September 30, 2015.

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