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09/11/87 Stephen E. Miner, v. Sharon Bray Et Al.

September 11, 1987

STEPHEN E. MINER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

SHARON BRAY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

513 N.E.2d 580, 160 Ill. App. 3d 241, 112 Ill. Dec. 166 1987.IL.1331

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon. Ivan Lovaas, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court. SCOTT and WOMBACHER, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HEIPLE

The plaintiff, Stephen E. Miner, a chiropractor, sued the defendants, Sharon Bray and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, for his professional fees. The trial court granted the plaintiff judgment against both defendants for $1,879. The defendants appeal.

Bray was injured in an auto accident and went to the plaintiff for treatment. Prior to receiving treatment, she signed a contract assigning to the plaintiff, to the extent of her bill, any benefits claims she might have under a State Farm insurance policy. Both defendants later refused to pay the plaintiff, resulting in the instant small claims action.

On appeal, the defendants first argue that the trial court abused its discretion when it allowed the plaintiff to amend his complaint after he had rested his case. At the close of the plaintiff's case, the defendants moved to dismiss Bray from the suit. The defendants argued that the plaintiff had brought suit under the physician's lien statute and that Bray was not a proper party in such a suit. The plaintiff's counsel, though stating that he believed the complaint was sufficient, moved to amend the complaint to add a cause of action against Bray personally. The trial court denied the defendants' motion, without specifying whether it found that the complaint was sufficient or whether it was allowing the plaintiff's motion to amend.

Supreme Court Rule 282 (87 Ill. 2d R. 282) provides that a small claim may be commenced by "filing a short and simple complaint setting forth (1) plaintiff's name, residence address, and telephone number, (2) defendant's name and place of residence, or place of business or regular employment, and (3) the nature and amount of the plaintiff's claim, giving dates and other relevant information." (Murray v. Cockburn (1984), 124 Ill. App. 3d 724, 464 N.E.2d 842.) If a complaint in a small claims action clearly notifies the defendant of the nature of the plaintiff's claim, it states a cause of action. Johnston v. Suckow (1977), 55 Ill. App. 3d 277, 370 N.E.2d 650.

In the instant case, the plaintiff's complaint named Bray as a defendant and stated that "I, the undersigned, claim that the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff in the sum of $1,879.00 plus costs for enforcement of a statutory lien pursuant to Chapter 82, Sec. 101.1 et seq. and that the plaintiff has demanded payment of said sum; that the defendant refused to pay the same and no part thereof has been paid; that the defendant resides at . . .." The address given was that of Bray, not State Farm. Further, an attached notice of lien, which was also served upon Bray, stated that she was liable to the plaintiff for $1,879.

The plaintiff's complaint provided all of the information required by Supreme Court Rule 282. It clearly alleged Bray's personal liability for the amount claimed. While it cited only the physician's lien statute, under the relaxed pleading standards of small claims court, the complaint and attached lien provided sufficient notice to Bray that she was required to appear and defend the action. Accordingly, the trial court properly denied the defendants' motion to dismiss Bray.

The defendants' second argument on appeal is that the trial court erred in entering judgment for the plaintiff, because the plaintiff's services were rendered on a "no out of pocket expense" basis. Specifically, the defendants point to the language in the contract assigning Bray's insurance benefits to the plaintiff. It states:

"I recognize that payment for services rendered by Doctor is due upon receipt of the services but that Doctor has agreed to accept this Assignment as an accommodation to me and that Doctor may revoke this Assignment at any time."

The defendants contend that the plaintiff never revoked the agreement and Bray is therefore not personally ...


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