No Appellate Jurisdiction Where Mailed Notice Of Appeal Unaccompanied By Affidavit

Secura Insurance Company had a coverage dispute with Farmers Insurance Company. Both companies made summary judgment motions. Farmers’ was granted; Secura’s was denied.

Secura appealed. The company mailed its notice of appeal to the court on the deadline day to appeal, so of course the court did not receive it until after the deadline passed. Normally that’s okay. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 373 in effect says that mailing is filing. But the rule also states that the mailing has to be supported by an affidavit or certificate as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 12(b). Secura’s notice of appeal was not accompanied by either.

Farmers asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal. Farmers argued that the lack of an affidavit or certificate stating when the notice of appeal was mailed made it impossible to tell whether Secura really complied with the 30-day deadline. The appellate court denied Farmers’ motion, ruling that “the failure to comply with the rules was ‘harmless error’ and there was no showing of prejudice to Farmers.” The appellate court then ruled in favor of Secura on the insurance coverage dispute.

Farmers appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The supreme court reversed the appellate court on Farmers’ appellate jurisdiction motion. The supreme court ruled there was no appellate jurisdiction because Secura did not file the Rule 129b) affidavit or certificate when it mailed the notice of appeal. Here’s what the Illinois Supreme Court said:

… [W]hile Rule 373 relaxes the requirement of timely filing where a party takes advantage of the convenience of mailing a document, a party can only take advantage of Rule 373 if it files proper proof of mailing as required by Rule 12(b)(3) … The reason for such a requirement is elementary. If there is no proof of mailing on file, there is nothing in the record to establish the date the document was timely mailed to confer jurisdiction on the appellate court.

The supreme court rejected Secura’s arguments that its letter to the clerk and its notice of filing to opposing counsel were adequate in lieu of the Rule 12(b) affidavit. The court ruled that neither the letter nor the notice were sufficient evidence to show when the notice of appeal was mailed.

Get the whole case, Secura Insurance Co. v. Farmers Insurance Co., No. 105991 (1/23/09), by clicking here.