Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 89-L-929. Honorable George J. Moran, Judge, presiding.
The Honorable Justice Goldenhersh delivered the opinion of the court. Kuehn, P.j., and Rarick, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Goldenhersh
JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the opinion of the court:
Defendants, Alton Memorial Hospital (hereinafter the hospital) and Alton Memorial Health Systems, Inc. (hereinafter Health Systems), appeal from an order of the circuit court of Madison County granting plaintiff, Janet Spurgeon, a new trial. On appeal, defendants raise four issues, specifically: (1) whether the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction in granting plaintiff a new trial; (2) whether the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial based upon the record and the evidence adduced at trial; (3) whether the trial court erred in allowing plaintiff to add the hospital as a defendant; and (4) whether the trial court erred by not entering a judgment in favor of defendants for costs but rather ordering each party to pay its own costs. We affirm.
Plaintiff originally filed her complaint on September 8, 1989, against Health Systems for injuries she sustained in a slip and fall on a parking lot at Health Systems' place of business. Health Systems filed a timely answer denying plaintiff's allegations of negligence and damages and later filed an amended answer in which it asserted the affirmative defense of contributory fault. Discovery ensued. In answers to plaintiff's interrogatories, Health Systems identified the owner of the premises in issue as Alton Memorial Hospital, Inc. Health Systems freely admits that its answer was incorrect to the extent that "Inc." should not have been included, as the hospital is not incorporated. In any event, Health Systems continued to produce hospital records and hospital employees for depositions as requested by plaintiff.
On December 2, 1991, the cause came for trial. On that date, plaintiff learned that Health Systems did not, in fact, own the premises where the alleged injury occurred, but that the hospital owned the premises. On that date, plaintiff added the hospital as a defendant, and the cause was continued to May 1992. On January 30, 1992, the hospital filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that plaintiff failed to name it as a defendant within the applicable statutory limitation period. The hospital's motion to dismiss was denied.
The cause was tried in April 1994. The jury returned a verdict in favor of both defendants, and the trial court entered judgment on the verdict on April 21, 1994. On May 5, 1994, plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time to file a posttrial motion. On May 19, 1994, defendants moved for an extension of time to file their response to plaintiff's posttrial motion and motion for sanctions should the trial court grant plaintiff the additional time she requested. Also on May 19, 1994, defendants filed a motion for reconsideration regarding the trial court's award of costs. The motion for extension of time was not ruled on in writing by the trial court until May 31, 1994, at which time the trial court granted the motion.
On June 30, 1994, plaintiff filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial and for sanctions. On July 28, 1994, defendants filed a motion to strike plaintiff's posttrial motions on the basis that they were not timely. Defendants also filed an alternative memorandum in opposition to plaintiff's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial. On December 7, 1994, the trial court denied defendants' motion to strike and reset plaintiff's posttrial motion. Thereafter, on June 30, 1995, the trial court heard oral arguments on said motion. On July 14, 1995, the trial court entered an order granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial, denying plaintiff's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and denying all parties' motions for sanctions and costs. Defendants now appeal.
The first issue we are asked to address is whether the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction in granting plaintiff a new trial. Defendants assert that the trial court erred in considering and then granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial because the trial court was without jurisdiction, as plaintiff failed to file a motion for a new trial within 30 days after the entry of such judgment and because no extension of time was granted within 30 days following the entry of judgment. Plaintiff responds that the trial court had jurisdiction at the time it granted plaintiff's motion for extension of time to file her posttrial motion because defendants filed a timely posttrial motion for reconsideration on the issue of costs, which stayed enforcement of the judgment, thereby leaving jurisdiction with the trial court until 30 days after being ruled upon. The motion for reconsideration of costs was ruled upon on July 14, 1995, well within the time in which plaintiff was granted an extension. We agree with plaintiff.
Section 2-1202(c) of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) provides, in pertinent part:
"(c) Post-trial motions must be filed within 30 days after the entry of judgment or the discharge of the jury, if no verdict is reached, or within any further time the court may allow within the 30 days or any ...