[1]     

SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

, [4]     

Date Filed: June 17, 1993

, [5]      IN RE ESTATE OF H. EARL HOOVER (ROBERT C. HOOVER ET AL., APPELLEES v. MIRIAM U. HOOVER ET AL., APPELLANTS) APPELLATE JUDGES: BILANDIC " />

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06/17/93 In Re Estate of H. Earl Hoover (Robert C. Hoover Et Al.,

SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

No. 73519

615 N.E.2d 736, 155 Ill. 2d 402, 185 Ill. Dec. 866, 1993.IL.0000878 <http://www.versuslaw.com>

Date Filed: June 17, 1993

IN RE ESTATE OF H. EARL HOOVER (ROBERT C. HOOVER ET AL., APPELLEES
v.
MIRIAM U. HOOVER ET AL., APPELLANTS) APPELLATE JUDGES: BILANDIC

[6]    

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BILANDIC

[7]    

Plaintiffs, Robert C. Hoover and five of his seven children, brought this action in the circuit court of Cook County against the defendants, the executors and several beneficiaries of H. Earl Hoover's estate, to contest the validity of Mr. Hoover's will and several codicils. In their first amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Hoover's will and the last five codicils to the will were invalid because the testator lacked testamentary capacity and, alternatively, because these instruments were the products of undue influence. Defendants moved for summary judgment on both the testamentary capacity count and the undue influence count. Plaintiffs only contested the motion for summary judgment on the undue influence count. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants as to both counts of the complaint. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed a motion to vacate the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Plaintiffs also moved for leave to file a second amended complaint instanter, which included a count alleging fraud in the inducement. The trial court denied plaintiffs' motions.

[8]    

Defendants then fined a motion for sanctions against the plaintiffs and their attorneys pursuant to section 2-611 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 2-611 (now preempted by Supreme Court Rule 137 (134 Ill. 2d R. 137))). The trial court granted defendants' motion for sanctions, assessing $129,000 in sanctions against Robert C. Hoover, individually, and $805,000 in sanctions, jointly and severally, against Robert C. Hoover, Robert A. Holstein, and the law firm of Holstein, Mack & Dupree. The trial court refused to impose sanctions against any other individual attorneys of the law firm, finding that they had acted on the authority of Robert A. Holstein and on the law firm's behalf.

[9]    

Plaintiffs appealed from the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the undue influence count and its denial of their motion to file an amended complaint instanter. Plaintiffs and their attorneys also challenged the trial court's imposition of sanctions. In a cross-appeal, defendants challenged the trial court's refusal to impose sanctions on any other individual attorneys.

The appellate court reversed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment on the undue influence count and remanded the cause for further proceedings, finding that the record contained numerous issues of material fact.(226 Ill. App. 3d 422, 430.) In light of this reversal, the appellate court also reversed the order imposing sanctions and remanded the issue of sanctions for further consideration following the trial of the case in chief. (226 Ill. App. 3d at 432.) In addition, the appellate court reversed the trial court's order denying plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint instanter. (226 Ill. App. 3d at 432.) We granted defendants' petition for leave to appeal (134 Ill. 2d R. 315).

On appeal, the issues before this court are whether: (1) the appellate court properly reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the defendants; (2) the appellate court properly allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint on remand to include a count of fraud in the inducement; (3) the appellate court properly reversed the trial court's order imposing sanctions against Robert C. Hoover, Robert A. Holstein and the law firm of Holstein, Mack & Dupree; and (4) the trial court properly admitted an affidavit from plaintiffs' expert witness.

As stated, the plaintiffs instituted this action to contest the validity of H. Earl Hoover's will and the last five codicils to the will. Mr. Hoover died testate and his will and eight codicils were admitted to probate in November 1985. He executed his last will and testament in June 1974. The testator's son, Robert, and Robert's children were beneficiaries under the will and the first through third codicils. Under the fourth codicil, Mr. Hoover partially disinherited Robert and five of Robert's seven children. Under the fifth codicil, Mr. Hoover completed the disinheritance of Robert and Robert's five children. The sixth through eighth codicils to Mr. Hoover's will upheld this disinheritance.

As stated, plaintiffs filed a will contest in the circuit court of Cook County based on the theories of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence. The undue influence count was based on allegations that Mr. Hoover's free will and agency had been overcome by a calculated series of lies, misrepresentations, and omissions concerning Robert's character. According to the allegations in plaintiffs' complaint, these lies and misrepresentations about Robert came from the testator's wife Miriam, Robert's brother, Jack, Robert's daughters, Elizabeth and Courtney, and, primarily, Robert's ex-wife, Nancy. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants, by way of a scheme of lies, omissions, and misrepresentations, convinced Mr. Hoover that Robert had mishandled his divorce from Nancy, that his actions had destroyed his family and his relationship with his daughters, Courtney and Elizabeth, that his divorce settlement with Nancy was unfair and had left her, Courtney, and Elizabeth virtually destitute, and that he had refused to provide funding for Courtney's and Elizabeth's educations. The complaint further alleged that these misrepresentations struck at the core of Mr. Hoover's ethical code of conduct and were designed to and did destroy the once warm and loving relationship that had existed between Mr. Hoover and his son and resulted in Robert's disinheritance.

I.

Turning to the merits of defendants' appeal, we initially note that, although the use of summary judgment aids in the expeditious Disposition of a lawsuit, it is a drastic means of disposing of litigation. (Purtill v. Hess (1986)


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