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Anderson v. Rick's Restaurant & Lounge

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 2, 1977.

GLORIA ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

RICK'S RESTAURANT & COCKTAIL LOUNGE ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ALFONSE F. WELLS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MCNAMARA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On May 19, 1971, plaintiff filed a two count complaint in the circuit court of Cook County against Neil Yaeger doing business as Rick's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge. Count I was predicated upon the Dramshop Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 43, par. 135), and alleged that Yaeger was the owner of certain premises known as Rick's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge located at 9560 Grand Avenue in Franklin Park, Illinois; that Yaeger personally or by his agents sold or gave alcoholic liquors to an intoxicated person who, after consuming said liquors on said premises, injured plaintiff. Count II realleged that Yaeger was the owner of the above premises and charged that plaintiff, while a customer on the premises, was attacked by a third person whom defendant should have known was of a wild and unpredictable nature; and that defendant failed to provide plaintiff with the safe use of the premises. Both counts sought judgment against Neil Yaeger d/b/a Rick's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge.

On the same day that the complaint was filed summons was issued directing the sheriff to serve Neil Yaeger in care of Rick's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge. On the following day Neil Yaeger was served personally. In July 1971 Yaeger answered Count I only in which answer he denied all allegations except the existence of the Dramshop Act. On April 10, 1974, after obtaining leave of court, Yaeger, through another law firm, filed an answer to Count II in which he denied all its allegations.

On May 14, 1974, during a deposition, Yaeger stated that Rick's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge was owned by Rick's Incorporated. Yaeger was vice-president of the corporation and manager of the business. His parents were the corporation's sole stockholders, but their active participation was confined to his father's sweeping out the premises in the morning and doing work on the books in the afternoon.

On August 29, 1974, the matter was assigned out for trial by the assignment judge. The trial judge indicated that trial would begin on September 3. On that date, approximately 15 months after the statute of limitations had run, plaintiff filed a motion pursuant to section 46(4) of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, par. 46(4)) to amend her complaint on its face by adding Rick's Inc. as a party defendant and to change the name of defendant to Rick's Inc. On the same date, Neil Yaeger, still represented by two law firms, filed petitions for summary judgment as to both counts. The trial court set a hearing for September 11 on plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint and on Yaeger's motions for summary judgment.

The petition for summary judgment as to Count II contained the language that it was made by Neil Yaeger doing business as Rick's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge and was signed by defense counsel as "attorney for defendant Neil Yaeger d/b/a Rick's Restaurant & Lounge." When plaintiff's counsel called that wording to the court's attention, the judge asked defense counsel if he wished the "doing business as" portion stricken. When defense counsel characterized the language as a clerical error and requested that it be stricken, the trial court struck that portion of the petition.

At that same hearing, the trial court granted plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint to add Rick's Inc. as a party defendant. The trial court also allowed defendant Neil Yaeger's motions for summary judgment as to both counts of the complaint. The court then asked plaintiff's counsel if he wished summons to issue against the added defendant, Rick's Inc. Counsel replied that under section 46 of the Civil Practice Act he did not believe it was necessary for summons to issue. Shortly thereafter, the trial court on its own motion and citing the above colloquy, dismissed the case as to Rick's Inc. for want of prosecution on the grounds that there was no defendant properly before the court. Plaintiff appeals from that order dismissing the case as to defendant Rick's Inc. Rick's Inc., by one of the law firms representing Yaeger, has filed a special and limited appearance in this court, insisting that no court has acquired jurisdiction over it. Rick's Inc., however, by leave of court, has filed a response to plaintiff's brief.

An interpretation of section 46(4) of the Civil Practice Act is necessary to resolve the issue. The section reads in pertinent part as follows:

"A cause of action against a person not originally named a defendant is not barred by lapse of time under any statute or contract prescribing or limiting the time within which an action may be brought or right asserted, if all the following terms and conditions are met: (a) the time prescribed or limited had not expired when the original action was commenced; (b) failure to join the person as a defendant was inadvertent; (c) service of summons was in fact had upon the person, his agent or partner, as the nature of the defendant made appropriate, even though he was served in the wrong capacity or as agent of another, * * *; (d) the person, within the time that the action might have been brought or the right asserted against him, knew that the original action was pending and that it grew out of a transaction or occurrence involving or concerning him; * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, par. 46(4).

Plaintiff contends that under the circumstances of this case it was not necessary to have summons issue in order for the court to acquire jurisdiction over the added defendant. Defendant counters by arguing that the provisions of section 46(4)(c) apply only when service of process is actually made upon a subsequently added defendant. Defendant also maintains that the failure to join Rick's Inc. was not inadvertent as required by section 46(4)(b).

• 1, 2 Defendant's argument that plaintiff's failure to join Rick's Inc. was not inadvertent may be disposed of summarily. The contention rests on the fact that plaintiff did not seek to add defendant as a party until the matter was assigned out for trial. In the first place, the argument was not made in the trial court and therefore is waived. Moreover, the trial court, in allowing plaintiff to add Rick's Inc. as a party defendant, tacitly rejected defendant's contention. More importantly, the record reveals that plaintiff first learned that Rick's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge was a corporation on May 15, 1974, during Neil Yaeger's discovery deposition. Plaintiff was granted leave to add Rick's Inc. on September 11, less than four months later. This court has held timely an amendment sought by plaintiff eight months after it was discovered the wrong defendant was before the court. (Bates v. Wagon Wheel Country Club, Inc. (1971), 132 Ill. App.2d 161, 266 N.E.2d 343.) We hold that plaintiff's failure to join Rick's Inc. was inadvertent, and that the motion made in September 1974 conformed with the requirements of section 46(4)(b) of the Civil Practice Act.

The more crucial question is whether it was necessary after obtaining leave of court to add Rick's Inc. as a party defendant for plaintiff to have service of process issue against the corporation in order that the trial court acquire jurisdiction over it. We believe that any discussion of the issue should include a reference to section 46(1) of the Civil Practice Act, which reads as follows:

"At any time before final judgment amendments may be allowed on just and reasonable terms, introducing any party who ought to have been joined as plaintiff or defendant, discontinuing as to any plaintiff or defendant, changing the cause of action or defense or adding new causes of action or defenses, and in any matter, either of form or substance, in any process, pleading, bill of particulars or proceedings, which may enable the plaintiff to sustain the claim for which it was intended to be brought or the defendant to make a defense or assert a cross demand."

Our courts have continually acknowledged that section 46 of the Civil Practice Act is to be liberally construed (Davis v. Hoeffken Bros., Inc. (1965), 60 Ill. App.2d 139, 208 N.E.2d 370) to the end that cases be decided on their merits and not by procedural technicalities. (Birchfield v. Wabash-Monroe Garage & Parking Corp. (1969), 113 Ill. App.2d 178, 252 N.E.2d 89.) ...


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