APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE THOMAS P. QUINN, JUDGE PRESIDING.
Released for Publication April 19, 1994.
Cousins. Jr., Murray, McNULTY
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cousins
JUSTICE COUSINS, JR. delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs are Illinois attorneys who were discharged by their Illinois resident client who filed a wrongful death action in Florida against Water Mania, Inc. (Defendant). They brought an action in an Illinois Circuit Court against the defendant in the underlying personal injury case to enforce their attorney's lien for fees. Defendant specially appeared to contest in personam jurisdiction of the Illinois courts. The trial court quashed service of process and dismissed plaintiffs' cause of action. Plaintiffs appealed.
The issues presented for review are (1) whether plaintiffs have waived their long-arm statute claim because (a) they omitted such in their complaint and (b) they allegedly did not raise a minimum contacts issue in the circuit court and (2) whether the trial court erred by determining that the Illinois long-arm statute did not extend to the nonresident defendant.
Initially, we note that defendant was not sued under its correct name. Even so, it was served in the State of Florida and we will address this matter on the merits.
While on vacation in Florida, Illinois resident Eric Edmonds, deceased, drowned at a water theme park owned and operated by Water Mania. His Illinois resident wife, Mrs. Patricia Edmonds (Edmonds or Mrs. Edmonds), hired Illinois attorneys Joseph L. Dombrowski and Joan Sorenson (Plaintiffs) to handle her wrongful death claim. Plaintiffs served an attorney's lien for fees letter on defendant in Florida. Defendant forwarded the lien to their insurance carrier, American Empire Surplus Lines Insurance Company (American), which engaged the services of Crawford and Company (Crawford), an Illinois corporation, to assist in its adjustment of the Edmonds case.
Approximately seven months later, Edmonds discharged plaintiffs and retained the Illinois law firm of Donald A. Shapiro, Ltd. (Shapiro). Shapiro engaged local counsel in Florida, Greg Sahlsten (Sahlsten) who filed a wrongful death action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Water Mania, Inc. American, on behalf of Water Mania, retained the Florida law firm of Rumberger, Kirk, Caldwell, Cabaniss, Burke & Wachsler (Rumberger) to defend the action. By affidavit, Shapiro swore that he never negotiated, dealt with, spoke to or otherwise had any dealings with Crawford and Company and that he only negotiated with defendant's counsel, on behalf of the Estate of Eric Edmonds.
During the pendency of the wrongful death action, Shapiro and Rumberger settled the case for $500,000. An United States District Court Judge in Florida approved the settlement. A provision of the release signed by the Edmonds required that the net proceeds be disbursed pursuant to an order issued by the Illinois probate court. The probate court approved the amounts distributable.
Plaintiffs later filed suit in Illinois against defendant and Crawford to enforce their lien for attorney fees. The complaint did not allege long-arm statute jurisdiction of the Illinois courts.
Defendant specially appeared and filed a motion to quash and to contest jurisdiction. Attached to defendant's motion to quash was an affidavit by Gary Larson, president of Water Mania, which attested that defendant had not committed any acts as enumerated under the Illinois Long Arm Statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 110, par. 2-209) (now 735 ILCS 5/2-209 (West 1992)). Specifically, he stated that he did not conduct business in Illinois nor had he transacted business in Illinois with respect to the matters involved in the Estate of Edmonds matter; that Water Mania was a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Florida with its principal place of business in Kissimmee, Florida where it operates a water theme park; Water Mania did not transact business in Illinois with respect to the Estate of Edmonds matter; there no longer existed an entity known as "Larson Lodge" but that when it was involved with Water Mania, it did not do business within the State of Illinois and did not transact business in Illinois with respect to the Estate of Edmonds matter. Represented by separate counsel, Crawford filed a motion to dismiss in response to plaintiffs' complaint.
In response to defendant's motion to quash, Joseph Dombrowski (Dombrowski), one of the plaintiffs, filed an affidavit which stated, in pertinent part, that he served an attorney's lien for fees upon defendant; that Crawford and Company was engaged by defendant to adjust said claim; Crawford and Company maintained offices and was registered to do business in Illinois; and as agents of defendant, transacted business in Illinois by adjusting said claim and by making telephone calls and sending correspondence to Illinois, by requesting medical records, and signing authorizations of Illinois residents; andthat based on information and belief, defendant individually and through its agents, transacted business in Illinois and entered into contracts substantially connected with Illinois by settling a claim made against ...