Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 97--L--448 Honorable Pamela K. Jensen, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Bowman
PRESIDING JUSTICE BOWMAN delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiff, Adam Sharpness, appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for leave to file an amended complaint to correct a misnomer. Upon the denial of that motion, the court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff argues that the misnomer in his complaint may not result in its dismissal. We affirm.
On July 22, 1997, plaintiff filed a complaint for damages that named Randy Grondfelt (Randy) as defendant. He alleged that, on December 3, 1995, plaintiff was riding in an automobile that Randy owned and operated. Due to Randy's negligence, the vehicle left the road, struck a tree, and overturned, causing plaintiff to suffer serious injuries.
Like the complaint, the summons named Randy as defendant. The return of service stated that a deputy sheriff served Randy by leaving the summons and complaint with Eileen Grondfelt, a member of Randy's household.
On September 4, 1997, Randy filed an answer to plaintiff's complaint. He admitted that he owned the vehicle in which plaintiff was riding on the date of the accident but denied all other material allegations.
Plaintiff was a minor on the date of the accident. As a result, the applicable statute of limitations expired on February 14, 1998, two years after his eighteenth birthday. See 735 ILCS 5/13--211 (West 1998).
On March 26, 1998, pursuant to section 2--401(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--401(b) (West 1998)), plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint to correct a misnomer. The motion stated that plaintiff's attorney had learned that the driver of the vehicle was actually Justin Grondfelt (Justin), Randy's son and a member of Randy's household. According to the motion, plaintiff was led to believe that "Randy" was Justin's legal name, rather than the name of a different person, when the insurer of the vehicle (1) referred to the driver as "Randy"; and (2) sent to plaintiff's attorney a letter that named Randy as the insured.
Plaintiff later filed an amendment to his motion, attaching an affidavit from Justin. Justin stated that, on the date of the accident, he was driving Randy's vehicle and transporting plaintiff, whom he had known for over 10 years. After Eileen Grondfelt, Justin's mother, was served with the summons and complaint, she showed them to Justin, who believed that the naming of his father was a "typo." Justin's mother told him that she would provide the complaint to his insurance company on his behalf, and Justin told plaintiff that he had been served. Randy moved to strike this affidavit as having been obtained in violation of the trial court's discovery order. The court granted that motion. With the court's permission, plaintiff subsequently deposed Justin, who confirmed some of the statements that he made in the affidavit.
Randy filed a response to plaintiff's motion for leave to amend. He attached a police report dated January 8, 1996, pertaining to the accident. He also submitted a notice of hospital lien dated May 17, 1996. Both documents named Justin as the person who allegedly caused the accident. Randy also moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2--619(a)(9) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2--619(a)(9) (West 1998)). He alleged that he was not legally responsible for Justin's conduct on the date of the accident.
The trial court found that no objective evidence supported plaintiff's claim of misnomer and denied his motion for leave to amend. It then ruled that plaintiff made no claim that Randy was vicariously liable for Justin's alleged negligence and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff timely appealed to this court.
Plaintiff first argues that the trial court erred by granting Randy's motion to strike Justin's affidavit. Plaintiff contends that he was entitled to procure that affidavit, which contains information that demonstrates that his naming of Randy was a misnomer. We need not address this issue. For the reasons that follow, even if we review the affidavit as part of the record, the trial court properly concluded that no misnomer occurred.
"Misnomer of a party is not a ground for dismissal but the name of any party may be corrected at any time, before or after judgment, on motion, upon any terms and proof that the court requires." 735 ILCS 5/2--401(b) (West 1998). A misnomer occurs when a plaintiff brings an action and a summons is served upon a real party in interest but the process and complaint are styled in other than the party's correct name. Zito v. Gonzalez, 291 Ill. App. 3d 389, 392-93 (1997). If the plaintiff does not sue the proper party under the wrong name but instead mistakenly sues the wrong party, the misnomer rule does not apply. Schryver v. Eriksen, 255 Ill. App. 3d 418, 420 (1993).
In evaluating a claim of misnomer, the pivotal task is to determine whom the plaintiff intended to sue. However, this inquiry is not controlled by the plaintiff's subjective intent but by the objective manifestations of that intent as contained in the record. We may not reverse the trial court's ...