Articles Posted in Standard of Review

Wallace Leyshon was fired from his job for cause by Diehl Controls North America. Leyshon sued Diehl for, among other things, defamation. A jury awarded Leyshon $2 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Diehl asked the trial court to lower the punitive damages verdict, which it did, to $6 million.

Still unhappy, Diehl appealed. One of Diehl’s positions on appeal was that the punitive damages award was excessive. The question was whether Leyshon had sufficient facts at trial to support the punitive damages verdict. The First District Illinois Appellate Court first considered the standard of review: “As the jury’s determination of the amount of punitive damages is predominately a factual issue, the [appellate] court will not reverse the award unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence.”

In this case, there was evidence that Diehl’s actions were premeditated. So the appellate court affirmed the punitive damages award. Read the whole case, Leyshon v. Diehl Controls North America, No. 1-09-1848 (12/27/10).

Firefighter Edward Lindemulder suffered from permanent, irreversible chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The City of Naperville, Illinois put Lindemulder on medical leave because his COPD prevented him from performing the essential functions of his job.

Lindemulder applied for line-of-duty or occupational disease disability benefits. He claimed his COPD was caused or exacerbated by his exposure to diesel fumes at the fire station or to fire smoke.

The board denied Lindemulder’s request, but did award a non-duty pension. The board ruled “that any alleged on-duty incidents or exposures did not cause or contribute to plaintiff’s [Lindemulder’s] disability, which instead was caused by cigarette smoking.” Lindemulder requested review of the board’s decision. But the trial court agreed with the board, so Lindemulder appealed.

Michael Russell died in a helicopter crash. His estate sued SNFA, a French company that manufactured the part of the helicopter the estate claimed was defective and caused the crash. SNFA claimed the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction over the company, and so asked the court to dismiss the case.

The trial court agreed, and ruled the estate “failed to meet its burden of showing continuous and systematic presence in Illinois” and that the accident “did not arise out of an Illinois activity.” But the First District Illinois Appellate Court reversed and sent the case back to the trial court for a decision on the merits.

The appellate court discussed the proper standard of review of a decision to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

Shell Oil Company’s pipeline leaked thousands of gallons of gasoline onto the Danhausen Farm in Kankakee County, Illinois. The lawsuit against Shell turned into a class action.

After Shell and the class reached a settlement, the trial court appointed a former judge as Settlement Administrator to recommend an allocation of the settlement funds among the class members.

The Administrator awarded the Danhausen Estate $120,489. But the Estate wanted more than $4.6 million. The Estate objected to the award, the trial court accepted the $120,489 recommendation, so the Estate appealed.

What is the standard of review for a dismissal with prejudice for failure to file a report from a health care professional within 90 days of filing of the complaint? The Second District Illinois Appellate Court requires de novo review.

Although we typically review the dismissal of a complaint with prejudice (as opposed to without prejudice) under an abuse of discretion standard … we determine that a de novo standard of review applies here, because the trial court’s decision was based on whether plaintiff complied with section 2-622 [Illinois Code of Civil Procedure], which involves statutory interpretation …

In this case, the appellate court reversed the dismissal of the case and remanded to the trial court to determine whether the deadline should have been extended for another 90 days. Read it all, Knight v. Van Matre Rehabilitation Center, No. 2-09-1127 (9/29/10), by clicking here.

Shoreline Towers Condominium Association sued Debra Gassman, claiming she “waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Shoreline.” Gassman had sued Shoreline, and had filed complaints with government agencies, asserting the association had engaged in religious discrimination. The dispute arose when Shoreline removed a mezuzah Gassman placed at the doorpost at the entrance of her apartment.

Gassman asked the trial court to dismiss Shoreline’s case because, she argued, it was prohibited by the Illinois Citizen Participation Act. The trial court agreed in large part, and dismissed most of Shoreline’s case. The court ruled that the Participation Act required Shoreline to pay Gassman’s attorney fees incurred in asking for the dismissal.

The dispute is backdrop for the appellate court’s rulings on the standard of review for an award of attorney fees, which Shoreline appealed. The First District Illinois Appellate Court distinguished between review of the order awarding the fees and of the amount of the award.

Writing an appellate brief? Here are some helpful excerpts from recently published opinions regarding standards of review in the Illinois appellate courts.

(1) Figueroa v. Deacon, No. 1-09-1844, First District Illinois Appellate Court (8/25/10). Re substantial compliance with a statute: “Whether there is substantial compliance with a statutory provision is a question of law and our standard of review is de novo.”

(2) Union Planters Bank v. Thompson Coburn, No. 5-08-0497, Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court (6/3/19). Re appeal of an order for a new trial and damages assessed a jury:

Clarence Domingo sued the builder of his house, Vito Guarino, for breach of contract and violation of the Illinois consumer fraud act. Clarence got a default judgment, which Vito tried to get vacated under Illinois Code of Civil Procedure § 2-1401. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on Vito’s request, then refused to vacate the judgment. So Vito appealed.

The first issue on appeal was the proper standard of review. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court acknowledged a split among courts on the question, then threw its hat on the side of the manifest-weight-of-the-evidence standard.

The whole opinion, Domingo v. Guarino, No. 2-09-0852 (6/25/10), is available by clicking here.

This is an important Illinois case inasmuch as it has generated one of just a handful of appellate opinions that deal directly with the law as applied to internet use and political speech.

Donald Maxon claimed he was defamed by comments posted by unidentified members of the public on a web version of the Times, a newspaper published by Ottawa Publishing Company. Certain unedited comments, Maxon felt, accused him of bribing city council members in return for a favorable vote on a city ordinance.

Ottawa Publishing knew the identities of the commenters, who wrote anonymously on the internet page. Maxon wanted to sue the commenters. To find out whom they were, Maxon filed a petition under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224 [allowing pre-trial discovery “for the sole purpose of ascertaining the identity of one who may be responsible in damages …”] demanding Ottawa Publishing to identify the commenters.

The standard of review of an appeal under the Illinois Foreclosure Law is de novo. But “it is foreseeable that in a case in which a trial court has held a full evidentiary hearing on a motion to appoint a receiver, this court could find that an abuse of discretion standard or a manifest weight of the evidence standard would be appropriate to review the lower court’s judgmental decision.”

Bank of America v. 108 N. Retail, No. 1-09-3523 (1st Dist. Illinois Appellate 3/31/10).

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