Premature Appeal Invokes Appellate Jurisdiction After Ruling On Insurer’s Sanctions Request

Maggie and Keith Yunker were in a car accident in August 2006. Unfortunately for them, their business automobile insurance policy expired two months earlier because they did not pay the premium. The insurer, Pekin Insurance, refused to pay medical expenses Maggie sustained in the accident. The Yunkers felt they were entitled to coverage under the insurance policy, so they sued Pekin.

The trial court agreed with Pekin, and gave the insurer summary judgment, Four days later, the Yunkers appealed the trial court’s ruling.

About two and one-half weeks after that, Pekin filed a request for sanctions against the Yunkers in the trial court. The trial court denied Pekin’s sanctions request a few weeks later. Pekin appealed that ruling. Pekin also asked the appellate court to dismiss the Yunker’s appeal. Pekin argued that its request for sanctions rendered the Yunker’s appeal of the summary judgment premature, resulting in no jurisdiction for the appellate court over the Yunker’s appeal.

The Third District Illinois Appellate Court rejected Pekin’s argument and ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the Yunker’s appeal. Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303, an appeal that becomes premature because of a post-judgment motion filed in the trial court becomes effective again after the trial court rules on the post-judgment motion. Here’s how the appellate court explained it:

Under the circumstances at bar, although the Yunkers’ May 22, 2009, notice of appeal was premature due to Pekin’s June 9, 2007, motion for sanctions, pursuant to [Illinois Supreme Court] Rule 303(a)(2), the notice is deemed effective on June 17, 2009, when the trial court denied the motion. Because the Yunkers were not appealing the results of the June 17 [sanctions] ruling, they were not required to file an amended notice of appeal. Because the Yunkers’ notice of appeal was timely, we hold that this court has jurisdiction.

In the end, the appellate court ruled that Pekin was not responsible for Maggie’s medical expenses. Read the whole opinion, Yunker v. Farmers Automobile Management, Nos. 3-09-0417, 3-09-0521 (9/9/10), by clicking here.