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Supreme Court Quick Takes

Petrovic v. The Department of Employment Security

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

This case, involving a denial of unemployment insurance benefits based upon employee misconduct, provided an opportunity for the Court to clarify the type of misconduct required and the proof necessary to justify such denial.

Petrovic applied for unemployment insurance benefits after she was terminated by American Airlines for misconduct at work. Petrovic had requested that the catering department deliver champagne to a customer and had asked a flight attendant to upgrade that passenger to first class.

The Department of Employment Security denied the request for unemployment benefits and the Board of Review affirmed that determination. Following further review, the case proceeded to the Supreme Court.

Because the applicable statute required that an employee’s violation be “deliberate and willful,” it necessarily required evidence that the employee was aware that her conduct was prohibited. In this case, there was no evidence in the record of a reasonable American Airlines rule or policy prohibiting Petrovic’s conduct. The employer’s sole witness at the administrative hearing testified only that “policies and procedures were not followed” but did not identify any specific rule or policy. Further, statements contained within the employer’s written protest were not legally competent evidence. The protest was merely a pleading and any facts alleged within the protest had to be substantiated with competent evidence.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's Illinois Supreme Court Civil opinions in Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District and Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services.

Coleman v. East Joliet Fire Protection District

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd.

In this divisive case, the Supreme Court departed from stare decisis and “determined that the time has come to abandon the public duty rule and its special duty exception.”

The public duty rule provided that local governmental entities and their employees owe no duty of care to individual members of the general public to provide governmental services, such as police and fire protection.

The Court based its ruling on three considerations: (1) the jurisprudence regarding the public duty rule was “muddled and inconsistent”; (2) application of the public duty rule is incompatible with the legislature's grant of limited immunity in cases of willful and wanton misconduct; and (3) determining public policy is primarily a legislative function and, by enacting statutory immunities, the legislature had rendered the public duty rule obsolete.

The special concurrence by Justice Freeman, joined by Justice Theis, agreed that the public duty rule must be abolished, but offered alternative justifications for the abolition. Justice Thomas, joined by Chief Justice Garman and Justice Karmeier, dissented, criticizing that the majority and concurring opinions were indefensible and that “both make a mockery of stare decisis.”

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Friday's top Illinois Supreme Court Criminal opinions in People v. Cummings, People v. Tolbert, People v. Chambers, People v. Sanders, People. v. Williams, People v. Lerma, People v. Thompson and People v. Salem.

People v. Cummings

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Derrick Cummings was driving a van registered to Pearlene Chattic when an officer initiated a traffic stop because Chattic was the subject of an arrest warrant. The officer could not see the driver before initiating the stop. Upon approaching, he saw Cummings was a man and thus, clearly, was not Chattic. The officer asked Cummings for his license, and defendant responded he did not have one. Cummings was then cited for driving while license suspended.

The circuit court granted suppression, and the appellate court affirmed. Initially, the Illinois Supreme Court followed suit. On remand from the United States Supreme Court to reconsider its earlier opinion in light of Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S. Ct. 1609, however, the Court reversed.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Bowman v. Ottney and Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and the criminal cases People v. Hughes, People v. Burns and In re Michael D.

Note: The authors of the summaries and the staff of Illinois Lawyer Now wish to honor the memory of Hon. Jean Prendergast Rooney, who passed away on December 8, 2015, and was a valuable original member of this team before becoming Circuit Judge. She is greatly missed.

CIVIL

Bowman v. Ottney

By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan

When a judge has made a ruling on a substantial issue in a case, followed by a voluntary dismissal without prejudice pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1009, a party may not move for substitution of judge when the subsequently refiled case is assigned to the judge who presided in the first case. In Bowman v. Ottney, the judge ruled on substantial issues, such as the scope of discovery. Thereafter, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her complaint and timely refiled her action. The refiled case was assigned to the original judge, and plaintiff immediately moved for substitution of judge pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1001. Defendant objected, asserting that plaintiff had “tested the waters” during the first case. The circuit court denied the substitution of judge but certified the issue under SCR 308.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases 1010 Lake Shore Association v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company and DG Enterprises v. Cornelius. and the criminal cases People v. Carter, People v. Schweihs, People v. Thompson and People v. Espinoza.

CIVIL

1010 Lake Shore Association v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC

A condominium association won summary judgment in a lawsuit it brought against a bank in a fight over whether the bank had extinguished the association’s lien rights following purchase of the unit at a judicial foreclosure sale. Interpreting two statutes, section 9(g)(3) of the Condominium Property Act and section 15-1509(c) of the Mortgage Foreclosure Law, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that a lien for unpaid assessments by a previous owner is not fully extinguished at a judicial foreclosure and sale unless the new owner “confirms the extinguishment” of the lien by paying assessments incurred after the sale. The lien is statutorily created upon a unit owner’s failure to pay common expenses when due. Even assuming that the condominium association was included as a party to the prior foreclosure action, the bank still was required to take the additional step to confirm the extinguishment by paying post sale assessments.  

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., v. Heritage Bank of Central Illinois and In re A.A. and the criminal cases People v. Wiliams, People v. Guzman and People v. Castleberry.

CIVIL

Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd v. Heritage Bank of Central Illinois

By Karen Kies DeGrand, Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smith LLC

In re M.A.

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

When she was 13 years old, M.A. used a knife to cut her 14-year-old brother after a physical altercation between them.  As a result, she was adjudicated delinquent of aggravated domestic battery, aggravated battery, and domestic battery.  On appeal, she challenged the registration provisions of the Violent Offender Act on various constitutional grounds.

Asserting an equal protection violation, M.A. argued that juvenile violent offenders were similarly situated to juvenile sex offenders.  The Court rejected that assertion, citing to the legislative history of both the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) and the Violent Offender Act (VOA).

Ballard RN Center, Inc. v. Kohll's Pharmacy & Homecare, Inc.

By Michael T. Reagan, Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan

In this “junk fax” class action case, the court held that a motion for class certification filed contemporaneously with the complaint was sufficient to bar a claim of mootness by defendant, which tendered the full amount recoverable under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act after the complaint, and class certification motion, were filed. In partially reversing the appellate court and in affirming the circuit court, the supreme court centered its analysis on its opinion in Barber v. American Airlines, Inc., 241 Ill.2d 450 (2011).

In Barber, plaintiff’s class action was properly dismissed because there was no motion for class certification pending when the defendant refunded the $40 baggage fee which was at issue, thereby mooting the class plaintiff’s claim. An underpinning of the reasoning in Barber was that in the absence of a motion for certification, the interests of the other class members were not then before the court.  

Here, defendant argued, in part, that the motion for class certification was a “shell” motion that lacked content. The supreme court disagreed, saying that the motion contained a general outline of the action, and effectively communicated the fundamental nature of the putative class action.

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil case Nelson v. Artley and the criminal case People v. Stapinski.

CIVIL

Nelson v. Artley

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd.

The liability of a rental car company who obtains a certificate of self-insurance from the Secretary of State is limited to the same minimum coverage provisions applicable to rental car companies who meet their financial responsibility obligations through purchasing an insurance policy. 

Mr. Nelson was injured by an Enterprise rental car driven by Mr. Artley, who was uninsured. Nelson sued Artley, resulting in a default judgment of $600,000.  Nelson brought a supplementary action against Enterprise.

Enterprise asserted various affirmative defenses, the most pertinent dealing with its financial exposure.  Enterprise argued that because it was self-insured, its total financial responsibility per occurrence was $100,000 (the statutory minimum coverage requirements for insurance).  Because $75,000 already had been paid or allotted to other claims arising out of the same incident, the circuit court issued a turnover order of $25,000 to Nelson. 

A review of Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the criminal cases In re Q.P., People v. Fiveash and People v. Goossens.

CRIMINAL

In re Q.P.

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

An officer responded to a call of a vehicle burglary in progress. Upon arriving, he located the minor, Q.P., who matched the description of the burglar. The officer handcuffed the minor and put him in the back of the squad car. The minor gave a false name and date of birth. Upon discovery that the information was false, the minor admitted to the officer that he was attempting to prevent the police from discovering that he had an outstanding warrant.

The minor was charged with, and convicted of, obstructing justice based upon giving false information to the police with the intent to prevent his apprehension. The Supreme Court was called upon to determine the meaning of “apprehension.” The minor argued that he was already apprehended because he was in police custody at the time he provided the false information. The State argued that apprehension is specific to each criminal charge and thus, while the minor had been apprehended for the suspected vehicle burglary, he had not yet been apprehended on the outstanding warrant.