Appellate Jurisdiction Okay Despite Incomplete Notice Of Appeal

Diane Borchers was the food service director at Mayslake Village, a senior citizen housing facility. Borchers used the company email system to communicate with vendors and other Mayslake employees. While she was on disability leave, two Mayslake employees accessed some of Borchers’s personal emails. The emails were in Borchers’s personal email account, which was available on her company computer at the company’s office.

Borchers sued Mayslake for violation of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the state commonlaw tort of intrusion upon seclusion. Later she sued the two Mayslake employees who got the emails.

Mayslake asked for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The trial court ruled that Borchers did not have enough evidence that Mayslake acted intentionally in accessing the private emails to proceed with the lawsuit.

The two Mayslake defendant employees asked for dismissal of the complaint against them, which the trial court granted. The trial court agreed that the statute of limitations expired before Borchers brought the employees into the lawsuit. The summary judgment and the dismissal were included in one court order.

Borchers appealed. But her notice of appeal stated only that “she was appealing from the order entered ‘on November, 17, 2010 granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.’” The two Mayslake employees asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal against them because the order of dismissal was not referenced in the notice of appeal, depriving the appellate court of jurisdiction.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed with the Mayslake employees, and denied their request to dismiss the appeal. The appellate court concluded that the notice of appeal should be construed liberally, and that it did not prejudice the employees. Here is how the court explained it:

[W]e must begin by considering the notice of appeal as a whole. In addition to identifying the order being appealed from as the order entered “on November 17, 2010 granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment,” the notice of appeal also stated that the appeal was “premised upon manifest errors by the trial court in the rendering of said Order and all underlying orders thereto,” and the relief sought was “that the aforementioned Order be reversed and/or vacated by the Appellate Court, and, if necessary, that this cause be remanded to the trial court with directives consistent with such disposition.” Construing the notice liberally, as we must … we find that this language fairly apprised the defendants that the plaintiff was seeking review (and reversal) of the entire order entered on the specified date. We also note that we must consider whether the defendants would be prejudiced by construing the notice in this manner … Here … the defendants do not assert that they would suffer any prejudice from our consideration of the motion to dismiss … In fact, they did not raise the jurisdictional objection until they filed their responsive brief in the appeal, in which they also argued at length the merits of the dismissal’s correctness. We therefore find that the notice of appeal in this case was sufficient to confer jurisdiction over all matters addressed in the trial court’s order of November 17, 2010, including its dismissal of Frigo and Maxwell [Mayslake employees] from the case.

In the end, the appellate court reversed Mayslake’s summary judgment and affirmed the employees’ dismissal. Click here for the whole opinion, Borchers v. Franciscan Tertiary Province of the Sacred Heart, 2011 IL App (2d) 101257.

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