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03/13/89 Leo Brigando, v. Republic Steel Corporation

March 13, 1989

LEO BRIGANDO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY, PLAINTIFF (HUNTER CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION

536 N.E.2d 778, 180 Ill. App. 3d 1016, 129 Ill. Dec. 728 1989.IL.319

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Marion W. Garnett, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE QUINLAN delivered the opinion of the court. MANNING, P.J., and O'CONNOR, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE QUINLAN

The Plaintiff, Leo Brigando, an employee of the Hunter Corporation (Hunter), was injured while repairing a crane at the Chicago plant of Republic Steel Corporation (Republic). Brigando sued Republic in the circuit court of Cook County alleging negligence and violations of the Structural Work Act (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 60 et seq.). Republic, in turn, filed a third-party claim against Hunter, asserting a claim based upon theories of indemnity, contribution, and breach of contract. When Brigando's suit against Republic was apparently settled by an agreement of Republic, Hunter and Brigando, the trial court, on the basis of the purported settlement, dismissed Brigando's suit and Republic's third-party claim against Hunter. Pursuant to this purported settlement, Republic had agreed to pay Brigando $25,000 and Hunter had agreed to pay Brigando $100,000. One week later, Republic filed for bankruptcy. Thereafter, Brigando filed a motion to vacate the dismissal and reinstate its suit. Later, however, Brigando agreed to accept $10 as payment in full, under the purported settlement, from Republic. After Brigando accepted $10 from Republic, Hunter refused to pay its portion, $100,000, when payment was demanded from Brigando. Subsequently, the trial court, on plaintiff's motion, ordered "enforcement" of the dismissal order, and, specifically, ordered Hunter to abide by the oral settlement agreement and pay Brigando $100,000. Hunter has now appealed.

The particular facts underlying the Brigando lawsuit are as follows. Republic hired Hunter to repair a crane at its Chicago plant. Hunter sent its employee, Brigando, to Republic's Chicago plant to repair the crane, and, on July 23, 1977, while performing that job, Brigando fell from a scaffold and was injured. Brigando sued Republic to recover for his injuries, and Republic, in turn, as noted, filed a third-party claim against Brigando's employer, Hunter. Brigando, Republic and Hunter reached an oral settlement agreement during the pretrial phase of the case, under which Republic agreed to pay Brigando $25,000, and Hunter agreed to pay Brigando $100,000 and waive its workers' compensation lien. These basic terms are undisputed, although the agreement was not reduced to writing. The dispute, which will be discussed in detail later, centered around the question of whether Hunter's payment of $100,000 was conditioned upon Republic's payment of $25,000 to Brigando.

Based upon the settlement by the parties, the claims were dismissed with prejudice on July 10, 1986. The trial court's order of July 10, 1986, was a form dismissal order which consisted only of generalized language and stated as follows:

"This cause coming to be heard upon the regular call of cases for pre-trial, and it appearing to the court that the said cause has been settled by agreement of the parties. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, adJudged and decreed that the above entitled cause

be and the same is hereby dismissed with prejudice -- and without costs."

One week later, on July 17, 1986, Republic filed a petition for reorganization in Federal bankruptcy court, and, because of Republic's filing, on July 18, 1986, Brigando brought a motion in the trial court requesting that the court vacate its order of July 10, 1986. Hunter did not object to this motion, and a hearing date on the motion was set for May 11, 1987.

On April 3, 1987, however, Brigando sent out notice of another motion, in which he requested that the court enter an order "enforcing" the order of July 10, 1986. Brigando presented the so-called motion to enforce to the court on May 11, 1987. Attached to Brigando's motion to enforce was his signed release, in which he agreed to release Republic from liability in exchange for Republic's payment of $10 and to release Hunter in exchange for both Hunter's payment of $100,000 and Hunter's waiver of its workers' compensation lien. Apparently to clarify the inconsistency of his prior motions to vacate and enforce the order, Brigando subsequently filed a single consolidated motion in which he requested that the court enforce the July 10, 1986, dismissal order, or, in the alternative, vacate the July 10 dismissal order and reinstate the case.

On June 23, 1987, the trial court held a hearing on Brigando's consolidated motion. The record reveals that, at the hearing, the court found that there had been no revision or modification of the terms of the oral settlement agreement as they applied to Hunter and then, based on that finding, entered an order stating that its prior order of July 10, 1986, should, accordingly, be "enforced" against the parties. In conjunction with this ruling, the court also denied Brigando's motion to vacate the order of July 10, 1986.

Subsequent to this ruling, Brigando filed a second motion to enforce the dismissal order of July 10, 1986, since Hunter still refused to pay Brigando. On November 17, 1987, the court held a hearing on this second motion to enforce and, at the hearing, Hunter argued that it had not paid Brigando because the court's prior order of June 23, 1987, did not specifically order it to pay Brigando, and in fact did not order it to do anything. The court disagreed with Hunter and found that since the terms of the July 10, 1986, agreement were undisputed, Hunter unequivocally agreed to pay Brigando $100,000, and Hunter's payment to Brigando was not contingent upon Republic's payment of $25,000. Therefore, the court again ordered that the July 10, 1986, order be enforced, but this time, in contrast to the court's prior order of enforcement, it specifically directed Hunter to pay Brigando ...


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