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Tatosian v. Graudins





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DAVID A. CANEL, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied August 4, 1980.

Charlene Tatosian, administrator of the estate of Lynn Marsh, deceased (plaintiff), brought suit against Dr. Stewart Freifeld, Dr. Francisco Alzes, Dr. Gunars Graudins, and Skokie Valley Community Hospital (defendants), for the wrongful death of the decedent. The trial court dismissed the case finding the "cause has been settled by agreement of the parties." Plaintiff filed a petition to vacate the dismissal order pursuant to section 72 of the Civil Practice Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 72.) Defendants filed motions to strike the petition. Plaintiff filed an amended petition supported by her affidavit and an affidavit of her attorney. The trial court denied plaintiff's amended petition. Plaintiff appeals.

Plaintiff contends the case should be reinstated because she did not consent to the settlement or the dismissal arranged by her attorney and defendants' attorneys. She claims her consent was essential to the settlement. Plaintiff urges she has a meritorious cause of action. Plaintiff also contends due diligence is not necessary for reinstatement of this cause; but, in any event, she has been diligent in seeking relief under these circumstances.

Defendants contend plaintiff failed to prove she has a meritorious claim and failed to exercise due diligence in presenting her section 72 petition. Defendants urge plaintiff has not proved any fact which would have prevented entry of the dismissal order.

This court finds the issue of diligence dispositive. Therefore, we need not consider the remaining issues.

The decedent left surviving her husband, Thomas Marsh, and two minor children. The relationship among the plaintiff, Thomas Marsh, and the decedent is unclear. Briefs filed by both parties disclose plaintiff was the sister of the decedent and sister-in-law of Thomas Marsh. However, in his deposition, Thomas Marsh stated plaintiff is his sister and was a friend of his wife, the decedent.

Lynn Marsh died on July 12, 1975. Plaintiff filed her amended complaint on November 10, 1975. On February 8, 1977, Skokie Valley Community Hospital moved to dismiss based on plaintiff's failure to supply an expert medical witness. On April 15, plaintiff's original attorney wrote to all defendants informing them of the identity of plaintiff's expert witness. This motion to dismiss was never ruled upon.

In August 1977, plaintiff was informed by Thomas Marsh that this cause was in the process of settlement, but no terms were discussed. On August 18 or 19, 1977, the case was settled and dismissed. Plaintiff alleged her original attorneys represented to the court that the parties involved had settled the matter by agreement. Actually, plaintiff at this time did not take part in the settlement.

On or about September 6, 1977, plaintiff received papers to sign from Thomas Marsh regarding a settlement for $2000. About September 22, 1977, plaintiff consulted with another attorney, Herbert Carlson, who advised her if she could not in good conscience agree to a settlement, she should refuse it and so inform her original attorney. On that same date, plaintiff informed her original attorney she would not agree to the settlement and she wished the case to proceed.

About October 5, 1977, the original attorney informed plaintiff the case had been dismissed on August 19. He told her the medical expert previously secured was not available to testify and if the cause were pursued and if malpractice were not found to exist, plaintiff could be countersued. Plaintiff thereupon terminated the employment of her original attorney.

Plaintiff then sought another attorney. Attorney Carlson agreed to investigate the matter and seek an expert medical opinion. Attorney Carlson advised plaintiff he could not undertake representation until he had obtained expert opinion. On April 25, 1978, Carlson received a favorable preliminary medical report and agreed to represent the plaintiff. In July 1978, Dr. Walter S. Feldman agreed to testify on plaintiff's behalf.

On August 15, 1978, plaintiff filed her petition under section 72 to vacate the dismissal order and to reinstate the cause. She filed her amended petition on October 13, 1978.

Section 72 of the Civil Practice Act provides a procedure whereby final orders may be vacated more than 30 days after their entry. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 72.) The disposition of the petition is within the sound discretion of the trial court. An abuse of such discretion is a prerequisite to reversal of the order. (In re Estate of Reilly (1979), 68 Ill. App.3d 906, 912, 386 N.E.2d 462.) The legal requirements for this type of petition are well set forth in Schmidt v. Siegal Trading Co. (1979), 72 Ill. App.3d 611, 614, 391 N.E.2d 32. The ...

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