Retroactive Application Of Illinois Supreme Court Rule Amendment Saves Insurer’s Appeal

Eclipse Manufacturing apparently was annoyed by receiving unsolicited faxes from United States Compliance. So Eclipse filed a class action case against Compliance. Compliance demanded a defense and indemnification from its insurer, Hartford Insurance. Hartford declined to defend and denied coverage.

Compliance settled with Eclipse, and gave Eclipse an assignment of the Hartford insurance policy benefit. Eclipse proceeded on a third party citation to collect the Hartford policy limits. The trial court ruled that the Hartford insurance policy covered Eclipse’s claim against Compliance, and ordered Hartford to pay the settlement.

The trial court stated its intention to rule for Eclipse in July 2006, and directed Eclipse and Hartford to draft an order based on the court’s comments. But Eclipse and Hartford could not agree on language for the order. Just before 30 days from when the trial court stated it would rule for Eclipse, but before a written order was entered, Hartford filed its notice of appeal.

Hartford filed its appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1). The rule required an appeal to be filed within 30 days of a final judgment. But the trial court’s statement that it intended to rule for Eclipse was not a final judgment. So Hartford’s notice of appeal was premature, and did not invoke appellate jurisdiction.

But while Hartford’s appeal was pending, Rule 303(a)(1) was amended. The amendment allowed “[a] notice of appeal filed after the court announces a decision, but before the entry of the judgment or order, … [to be] treated as filed on the date of and after the entry of the judgment or order.” So Hartford’s jurisdictional problem would be fixed if the amendment could be applied retroactively to Hartford’s appeal.

That’s exactly what the Second District Illinois Appellate Court did. “In the interest of consistency,” the court relied on its decision in In re Marriage of Duggan, 376 Ill.App.3d 725 (2007), which ruled that a similar amendment should be applied retroactively. Take a look at our report of the Duggan case here, here, and
here. And get the court’s entire opinion in Eclipse Manufacturing v. United States Compliance, Nos. 2-06-0825, 2-06-0889 (11/30/07), by clicking here.