Certified Question Improper Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308, But Appellate Court Takes Interlocutory Appeal Anyway

Jerry Walker suffered a personal injury when she fell while cruising on a Carnival Cruise Line ship. She sued Carnival in Illinois, but her ticket stated that disputes must be litigated in Miami, Florida. Carnival sought dismissal of Jerry’s lawsuit, arguing that Illinois was not the proper forum. The Illinois trial court ruled that the forum-selection provision on Jerry’s ticket was unenforceable, and denied Carnival’s motion.

Because an order denying a motion to dismiss is not final and appealable, Carnival asked for permission to appeal. The trial court allowed the interlocutory appeal, and, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308, certified the following question for the appellate court to answer: “Whether the trial court erred in its application of law pertaining to its denial of Carnival’s … motion to dismiss …”

Rule 308 interlocutory appeals are allowed when the trial court certifies “a question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and where an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the question certified by the trial court was not a proper Rule 308 question.

Here, the first certified question, as framed by the circuit court, although properly couched in Rule 308 language, essentially asks this court to review the underlying order, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. This request is merely seeking a review of the trial court’s application of the law to a given set of facts rather than a properly written certified question which articulates a specific question of law.

Citing the “interest of judicial economy and reaching an equitable result,” the appellate court decided to take the appeal despite the improper certified question. In the end, the court ruled that Carnival’s forum-selection provision was enforceable. Read the whole case, Walker v. Carnival Cruise Lines, No. 1-07-3538 (5/21/08) by clicking here. (Free subscription through Lexis One required.)