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09/09/94 TONI L. DECKER v. ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL

September 9, 1994

TONI L. DECKER, SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF RICHARD DECKER, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 83-L-1082. Honorable Jerome F. Lopinot, Judge Presiding.

Maag, Lewis, Rarick

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maag

JUSTICE MAAG delivered the opinion of the court:

This is a case with a tortured, and seemingly endless, history. Rather than restating this history in detail, we simply refer the parties to our earlier decision, Decker v. St. Mary's Hospital (1993), 249 Ill. App. 3d 802, 619 N.E.2d 537, 188 Ill. Dec. 912 (hereinafter Decker I). We will only describe the facts pertinent to our present decision.

On May 29, 1990, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Decker, and against the defendant, St. Mary's Hospital, in the amount of $360,000. Posttrial motions were filed by both parties. The defendant's motion was denied. Plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages only was allowed. Upon retrial, a different jury, on December 12, 1990, assessed the damages in the sum of $1,000,000. The defendant filed a posttrial motion, which was denied. The defendant then appealed.

This court affirmed that judgment in Decker I.

On September 29, 1993, plaintiff filed a motion to execute on the appeal bond. The motion sought the $1,000,000 judgment amount, one year's prejudgment interest as a sanction, and interest on the $1,000,000 judgment amount from May 29, 1990, the date of the first verdict.

The defendant objected to the payment of prejudgment interest. It also objected to paying interest on the judgment from May 29, 1990. Defendant further claimed that it was entitled to a setoff of $180,000. The requested setoff was based upon the fact that prior to trial plaintiff had settled with another defendant, Dr. Gandhy, for $180,000.

After hearing, the defendant's request for setoff was denied, and defendant was ordered to pay interest on the $1,000,000 judgment amount from May 29, 1990, the date of the first verdict. The request for one year of prejudgment interest was denied. It is from that order that defendant appeals.

Two issues are raised by the defendant on appeal.

(1) Did the trial court err in computing interest from May 29, 1990, the date of the first verdict?

(2) Did the trial court err in refusing to reduce the $1,000,000 judgment amount by $180,000 to reflect the settlement with Dr. Gandhy.

I

The defendant claims that it was improper to compute interest from the date of the first trial. According to defendant, when a new trial on damages only was ordered, there was no judgment in effect against which interest could accrue. Defendant further argues that no sum certain was due until the verdict was rendered in the secondtrial and thus it was impossible to stop the accrual of interest by paying the judgment amount.

Plaintiff counters that the award of interest running from the first trial was made as a sanction to punish the defendant for misconduct in the first trial.

There is no question that in granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages only, after the May 29, 1990, verdict, the trial court was attempting to remedy conduct on defendant's part that contributed to a lower verdict amount than was ultimately awarded upon retrial. However, contrary to plaintiff's assertion, the trial court's order that is the subject of this appeal, i.e., the order awarding interest from May 29, 1990, expressly denied plaintiff's request for sanctions. While we express no opinion on whether the trial court could have ordered interest to run from the date of the first verdict as a sanction, it is clear that, in any event, that was not done.

This leaves us with a simple question of law to decide. That question is: When a judgment on liability and damages is entered, and the damage award is then set aside by the trial court and a new trial on damages only is ordered, does interest run from the date of the first verdict or the date of the verdict rendered upon retrial? For the reasons which follow, we conclude that interest runs from the date of the verdict rendered upon retrial, not the date of the original verdict and judgment.

Our starting point is the Civil Practice Law. Section 2-1303 of the Civil Practice Law (735 ILCS ...


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