Litigation Law Roundup

Sharp  Thinking

No. 189   Perspectives on Developments in the Law from Sharp-Hundley, P.C.   October 2020

 Court Tells Standards For E-Filing Error Decisions

The Appellate Court in Chicago has given guidance on what constitutes “good cause shown” in seeking relief when a court clerk’s rejection of an e-filing makes a document untimely.

Acting in Davis v. Village of Maywood, 2020 IL App (1st) 191011, the court dealt with a plaintiff who  submitted a complaint within the statute of limitation only to have it rejected the following business day because of failure to provide the Cook County attorney identification number in one of two places where it was required in that court’s e-filing process.  The omission was corrected promptly and a second e-filing accepted, one day past the limitation deadline.  The trial court dismissed the complaint as time-barred.

In such circumstances, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 9(d)(2) provides, “If a document is rejected by the clerk and is therefore untimely, the filing party may seek appropriate relief from the court, upon good cause shown.”  Reversing the trial court, the Appellate Court made several points:

  • “Rule 9(d)(2)’s broad relief language indicates that we must consider the totality of the circumstances”;
  • “Good cause is demonstrated primarily by the fact that the submission the clerk rejected was identical to the document that the clerk later accepted. . . there was no defect in the complaint itself”;
  • The e-filing “envelope” is “not part of a complaint and is not required by our rules of civil procedure”;
  • “There was a failure of form rather than substance, and it seems likely the failure would have been corrected at the clerk’s counter had counsel been able to file in person”;
  • The space where the attorney’s number was omitted was “confusing at best”;
  • The original submission was not a hurried last-minute filing as in Peraino v. County of Winnebago, 2018 IL App (2d) 170368 (see Sharp Thinking No. 156 (July 2018)).

Accordingly, the Appellate Court found “that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to deny [plaintiff’s] motion for relief upon good cause shown and an error to grant the motion to dismiss the pleading as untimely filed.”

Court Limits “Testing The Waters” Doctrine

A circuit court did not have discretion to deny a defendant’s motion for substitution of judge under 735 ILCS 5/2-1001(a)(2) even though that defendant had “tested the waters” with respect to the judge who had been sitting in a different cause of action arising from the same occurrence brought by a different plaintiff against the same defendant.

So held the Appellate Court’s Fifth District recently, responding to a question certified under Supreme Court Rule 308.  Simpson v. Knoblauch, 2020 IL App (5th) 190439.

In Simpson, defendant had been involved in an auto accident with Simpson’s decedent and one Linda Abert.  Abert sued and settled, and then Simpson’s decedent sued before the same judge who had handled Abert’s suit.  Proceedings in the earlier case seemed to satisfy the “testing the waters” test, referring to a doctrine under the substitution of judge statute (735 ILCS 5/2-1001) which excepted from “as of right” substitutions situations arising after the movant had received some indication of the judge’s views on the merits of the case.

Noting that the instant case involved a filing by a new plaintiff, and not a re-filing by the same plaintiff, the Fifth District distinguished prior cases involving re-filings.  The court declined to extend the holding of Bowman v. Ottney, 2015 IL 11900, “to deny Knoblauch’s motion for substitution of judge on the basis that substantive rulings or extensive discussion occurred in the prior case, considering that in the prior case a different plaintiff had alleged her claim against the defendant and [Simpson’s decedent] had declined to raise his claim against the defendant.”

Nevada Trustee Is Subject To Illinois Specific Jurisdiction

The fact that the trustee and the trust assets had relocated to Nevada for decades was insufficient to prevent the Appellate Court in Chicago from finding that that trustee was within the specific jurisdiction of an Illinois court.

Acting in Capra v. Lipschultz, 2020 IL App (1st) 192160, the court relied on provisions of the Illinois Long-Arm Statute (735 ILCS 5/2-209(a)) to hold that a trustee who had resided in Nevada for 29 years nonetheless was subject to the Illinois court’s jurisdiction in a suit for an accounting respecting a trust formerly sited in Illinois.

Among the bases for the court’s ruling were that § 2-209(a)(10) “specifically provides that the acquisition of ownership, possession, or control of any asset or thing of value present within Illinois at the time of acquisition subjects a defendant to jurisdiction” and that under § 2-209(a)(14) “the exercise of powers granted under the authority of this state as a fiduciary subject[s] a defendant to jurisdiction”.

While relying on Illinois statutory provisions, the court recognized the due process limitations thereon.  It recognized that an “Illinois court may assert specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if: (1) the defendant had minimum contacts with Illinois such that it was fairly warned that it may be haled into an Illinois court; (2) the action arose out of or was related to the defendant’s contacts with Illinois; and (3) it is reasonable to require the defendant to litigate in Illinois.”

The court found those tests met.  That the “defendant may have operated the trust from Nevada is not dispositive as to his contacts with Illinois.  Indeed, while defendant’s actions may have been initiated in Nevada, almost all of them were directed to Illinois.”  (The original beneficiary, before her death, was in Illinois, as were the contingent beneficiaries.)  “Defendant has consistently made payments to Illinois entities and individuals using trust assets, and he has moved the trust assets themselves from Illinois banks to other locations.  Such transactions will certainly be included in any accounting.”

  • John T. Hundley