Articles Posted in Interlocutory Appeals

Leon Aylward claimed his doctor, Michael Settecase, and the medical clinic that employed him, failed to timely diagnose Aylward’s lung cancer. After Aylward sued them for malpractice, the clinic asked the trial court for permission to talk to other clinic employees who had been involved with Aylward’s treatment, but had not been sued. The clinic argued it should be allowed to have private conversations with the employees because Aylward could sue them later, and as defendants the clinic’s lawyers could talk to them privately.

The trial court denied the request, but certified the question to allow an immediate appeal. The appellate court accepted the immediate appeal, but Aylward asked for it to be dismissed. He argued that it was not a proper interlocutory appeal because it called for an advisory opinion to a hypothetical question – i.e., it was hypothetical that the employees would be sued.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court disagreed because, “Answering this question will have an immediate effect upon the discovery process by determining whether MPG [clinic] is permitted to represent the MPG employees, and thus, its resolution may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.”

Marc and Mary Simon bought a condominium from Palmolive Tower Condominium before Palmolive finished constructing the building. The Simons were unhappy with Palmolive’s performance, and refused to release the money being held in escrow for Palmolive. So Palmolive sued the Simons, and the Simons counterclaimed for breach of contract and fraud.

Palmolive asked the trial court for judgment on the pleadings on its own multi-count complaint, and to dismiss the Simons’s counterclaim. The trial court dismissed the counterclaims, and stated its order was “a final and appealable order there being no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal.” Later the trial court gave judgment on the pleadings in favor of Palmolive on the first of several counts of its complaint. The remaining counts of Palmolive’s complaint were left standing. The court’s judgment said it was “final and appealable.”

The Simons appealed from both orders. The parties agreed the appellate court had jurisdiction over the order giving Palmolive judgment on the pleadings. But the court thought otherwise and dismissed that part of the Simons’s appeal. Here’s why.

This posting is not strictly about appellate practice, but it’s worthwhile to read here because it answers the question of how long you have after a final order is entered to ask the trial court for attorney fees. And how long do you have to request fees after the trial court allows an interlocutory appeal? These are questions trial attorneys ask me a lot.

Timothy and Michael Herlehy felt they were shortchanged in their great-aunt’s trust. When she died, the Herlehys sued the trustee, First National Bank of LaGrange, and five charities that were residuary beneficiaries of the trust. The claim against LaGrange Bank was for breach of fiduciary duty in administering the trust. The Herlehys felt the charities received more money than they were entitled to, so the claim against the charities was for unjust enrichment.

The trial court dismissed the complaint against LaGrange Bank because it did not have a duty to change the trust in keeping with the Herlehys’ wishes. After it won, the bank asked for an award of its attorney fees, but the trial court denied that request because, it said, it did not have jurisdiction to consider the question.

David and Rojean Molloy were battling for custody of their two children.

The trial court appointed the Cook County, Illinois public guardian to represent the children. A custody evaluation by a social worker was scheduled under the Marriage Dissolution Act. Rojean, who did not have a lawyer, asked the trial court to prohibit David’s lawyer from attending the social worker’s evaluation session with David. The trial court agreed and barred David’s lawyer from attending.

David thought he should not be deprived of an attorney at the evaluation, so he filed a notice of interlocutory appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307. David argued that the order prohibiting his lawyer from attending the evaluation amounted to a preliminary injunction, so the appellate court had jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

Robert Stein and Clinton Krislov both are attorneys. Stein sued Krislov and his lawfirm for libel. The alleged libelous statements were made in a letter Krislov wrote to a federal judge who was presiding over a class action case. Krislov’s letter stated that Stein misrepresented to the court his experience as class counsel.

Krislov asked the trial court to dismiss Stein’s libel case. Among other things, Krislov asserted immunity from Stein’s lawsuit based on the Citizen Partcipation Act. The Act gives immunity to a person who was sued as a result of exercising his rights to free speech and to participation in government.

The trial court denied Krislov’s request to dismiss. Krislov appealed under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a)(1) (appeal as of right from an interlocutory injunction) and the Act. The First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider Krislov’s appeal. The appellate court stated (1) the denial of Krislov’s request to dismiss did not qualify for appeal under Rule 307; (2) the Act could not provide appellate jurisdiction where the Illinois Supreme Court had not.

After SG’s parents lost their parental rights, the Hixsons (grandparents) petitioned to adopt the child. Five days later, in a separate case, the Bakers (foster parents) also petitioned to adopt SG. The Bakers also asked the trial court to consolidate the two cases. Over objection by the Hixsons, the cases were consolidated.

Two weeks later, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services entered the consolidated case and consented to the Bakers attempt to adopt SG. DCFS also asked the trial court to dismiss the Hixsons’ adoption petition. The trial court did so in late September 2009.

The Hixsons wanted to appeal the dismissal of their adoption petition. In early November 2009 the trial court issued a Rule 304(a) finding (no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of an order that disposes of fewer than all parties and all issues). The Bakers also asked to sever the two cases they previously asked to consolidate.

Discovery orders in Illinois generally are not immediately appealable. But a party can get an immediate appeal by refusing to comply with the order and then being held in contempt of court for doing so. The contempt order is immediately appealable.

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court recently stated this rule and identified the standard of review when a party refuses to comply with discovery based on privilege. “Berkman’s appeal of the contempt order requires us to review the underlying discovery order … On appeal, Berkman challenges the trial court’s determination that neither the attorney-client privilege nor the fifth amendment privilege shielded the requested documents from discovery. Although discovery orders are generally reviewed for abuse of discretion, we review the trial court’s determination of whether a privilege applies de novo …”

The whole case, Mueller Industries v. Berkman, No. 2-09-0134 (3/23/10), is available here.

Mary Ann Aiello passed away with more than 29 months left in her term on the Winnebago, Illinois County Board. Theodore Biondo was appointed to fill the vacancy. By the time Biondo’s appointment went through there was less than 28 months left in Aiello’s term.

Under the Illinois Election Code, a person appointed to fill a vacancy completes the term if less than 28 months remain. If more than 28 months remain in the term, then the person appointed stays in office only until the next election. The next election was in 2008, but the Aiello term did not expire until late 2010. The question was when the clock started ticking – when Aiello passed away or when Biondo was appointed.

The Democratic Party submitted Carolyn Gardner as a candidate to run for the Aiello vacancy in the November 2008 election. Believing Biondo could complete Aiello’s term, and that there should not be an election for the seat until 2010, the Republican Party did not submit a candidate for the office. Nor did Biondo apply to run.

After Eleanor Miller died, Melodee Miller-Hanson became the successor trustee of Eleanor’s trust. Melodee got into a dispute with the other beneficiaries of the trust, and they ended up suing each other. The beneficiaries wanted Melodee removed as trustee; Melodee wanted the beneficiaries disinherited.

Melodee’s counterclaim was dismissed. And with “a few specific exceptions that were to be assessed against Melodee’s final distribution share,” the trial court ruled against the beneficiaries in their claim against Melodee. Melodee later asked the court to grant her litigation expenses, which the court largely denied.

Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(b)(1) [allowing an interlocutory appeal from a judgment or order entered in the administration of an estate, guardianship, or similar proceeding which finally determines a right or status of a party], Melodee appealed a number the trial court’s rulings in connection with her requests for fees and costs. But she filed her notice of appeal before the court ruled on a final distribution of the assets of the trust.

This insurance coverage case has a unique twist on when an interlocutory order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) may be appealed.

John J. Rickhoff Sheet Metal Co. filed a third-party complaint against Meridian Mutual Insurance Co and the Horton Group, Inc. Meridian and Horton asked the trial court to dismiss Rickhoff’s third-party complaint, which the court did.

Rickhoff then asked the court to reconsider the dismissals. The trial court denied Rickhoff’s request as to Meridian, and entered Rule 304(a) language [no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal] permitting an interlocutory appeal within 30 days. The trial court took the reconsideration request as to the Horton dismissal under advisement. More than 30 days later, the court also denied that request to reconsider, and made a similar Rule 304(a) finding.

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