Constructive Re-filing Of Reconsideration Motion Provides Appellate Jurisdiction Over Insurer’s Appeal Of Coverage Dispute

Stoneridge Development Company built a townhouse for John and Marie Walski. The Walskis claimed the house suffered from structural defects caused by Stoneridge building on soil that was not compacted appropriately. After the Walskis sued Stoneridge, Stoneridge sued Essex Insurance Company, its general liability insurer, for insurance coverage for the Walskis lawsuit.

The trial court ruled that Essex had an undisclosed conflict of interest, was therefore prevented from denying coverage, and entered summary judgment for Stoneridge. Essex appealed, but Stoneridge asked the appeal to be dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

The trial court had written an opinion letter in July stating how it intended to rule and directing the parties to draft an order granting the summary judgment. Essex filed a motion to reconsider after that opinion letter was written, but before the judgment was entered. When the judgment in Stoneridge’s favor was entered, the trial court also entered and continued Essex’s motion to reconsider.

A motion to reconsider the judgment ordinarily tolls the time to file an appeal for 30 days from time there is a ruling on the motion. But Stoneridge argued that this reconsideration motion did not toll the time to appeal because it was filed before the judgment was entered. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed, and ruled that the motion for reconsideration had been constructively re-filed when the trial court entered and continued it, vesting appellate jurisdiction to hear Essex’s appeal. Here’s what the appellate said:

“While Essex filed its motion to reconsider on August 7, 2006, after the trial court’s letter opinion but before the filing of the final judgment, the final judgment corresponded to the letter opinion, and Essex’s motion therefore also attacked or “was directed against” the substance of the judgment. Immediately after the trial court entered the August 15, 2006, final judgment, it “entered and continued” Essex’s motion to reconsider. When a trial court enters and continues a motion, the result is that the motion is left pending … Therefore, the effect of the trial court’s action was a constructive refiling of Essex’s motion to reconsider on August 15, 2006, within the 30-day period for filing an appeal, tolling the time to file a notice of appeal until the motion to reconsider was resolved.”

Read the whole opinion, Stoneridge Development v. Essex Insurance, No. 2-06-1166 (5/6/08), by clicking here. (Free account required.)