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Webster v. Hartman

December 20, 1999

ROBERT EUGENE WEBSTER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EDWIN HARTMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 94L89 Honorable Donald M. Cadagin, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In February 1994, plaintiff, Robert Eugene Webster, sued defendant, Edwin Hartman, for injuries he sustained when Hartman rear-ended him at a Springfield, Illinois, intersection in February 1992. A November 10, 1998, docket entry states: "[c]ase [s]ettled." Hartman subsequently filed a motion to enforce settlement. Following a December 1998 hearing on Hartman's motion, the trial court allowed the motion and dismissed the case. Webster appeals that order, arguing that (1) neither he nor his attorney agreed to settle; and (2) the court erred on a pretrial ruling. We affirm.

When presented with a challenge to the trial court's determination that a settlement occurred, we will not reverse unless the court's conclusion is against the manifest weight of the evidence--that is, unless an opposite conclusion is clearly evident. In re Estate of Glassman, 257 Ill. App. 3d 102, 107, 628 N.E.2d 666, 670 (1993). Here, however, the record before us contains neither (1) a transcript of the hearing on the motion to enforce settlement, nor (2) a bystander's report or an agreed statement of facts filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 323(c) and (d). 166 Ill. 2d. Rs. 323(c), (d).

To determine whether a claimed error occurred, a court of review must have before it a record of the proceedings below. Foutch v. O'Bryant, 99 Ill. 2d 389, 391, 459 N.E.2d 958, 959 (1984). The appellant bears the burden to present a sufficiently complete record, and this court will resolve any doubts that arise from an incomplete record against the appellant. Foutch, 99 Ill. 2d at 391-92, 459 N.E.2d at 959. Absent a sufficient record on appeal, "it will be presumed that the order entered by the trial court was in conformity with law and had a sufficient factual basis." Foutch, 99 Ill. 2d at 392, 459 N.E.2d at 959.

In this case, we are asked to review the propriety of the trial court's action on Hartman's motion to enforce settlement. We know, through examination of the common-law record, that the trial court conducted a hearing on the motion. However, we have no record of the evidence presented at that hearing, nor do we know the basis for the trial court's decision. We know only that the court allowed the motion. We therefore have no basis for holding that the trial court's finding-- that a settlement occurred--was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and we presume the trial court's ruling was appropriate. As the court explained in Palanti v. Dillon Enterprises, Ltd., 303 Ill. App. 3d 58, 66, 707 N.E.2d 695, 701 (1999), "[a]rguments made by an appellant that depend on facts that are not contained in the record are not sustainable on appeal." The Palanti court also wrote that an appellant has the duty to present the reviewing court with a complete record on appeal, and any doubts arising from an incomplete record are resolved against the appellant. Further, "'those issues which depend for resolution upon facts not in the record mandate affirmance'." Palanti, 303 Ill. App. 3d at 66, 707 N.E.2d at 701, quoting U.S. Minerals & Mining, Inc. v. Licensed Processors, Ltd., 194 Ill. App. 3d 428, 434, 551 N.E.2d 661, 665 (1990); see also Hubeny v. Chairse, 305 Ill. App. 3d 1038, 1046, 713 N.E.2d 222, 227 (1999) (any doubts arising from the incompleteness of the record must be resolved against appellant); In re Estate of Jacobs, 189 Ill. App. 3d 625, 629, 545 N.E.2d 502, 504 (1989) (affirmance is dictated when crucial facts are omitted from the record).

The dissent does not dispute the majority's view that the record before us is not sufficient to enable us to review the propriety of the trial court's action on Hartman's motion to enforce settlement. Thus, implicit in the dissent is the requirement that Hartman, as the appellee, should somehow have assumed the burden of ensuring a complete record be submitted to the appellate court once Hartman became aware that Webster, as appellant, had failed to do so. Yet, before such a requirement is imposed, this situation must be considered from the point of view of appellee's counsel. When he received appellant's brief in this case and the "record" upon which it is based, counsel could have appropriately concluded that because the record is so deficient, the appellate court would reject appellant's arguments on the ground that the appellate court has nothing before it upon which to reverse the trial court. Under these circumstances, we have no difficulty believing that an attorney, in light of Supreme Court of Illinois rules and precedent, would reasonably conclude that the burden and expense of preparing a bystander's report does not fall upon him and his client.

The dissent accurately describes the rules regarding the burden of proof when a trial court determines whether a case has settled. However, the dissent implies that the party with the burden of proof in the trial court also has the burden of ensuring that the record on appeal establish that the burden of proof was met. We disagree. Regardless of where the burden of proof may lie in the trial court, in this court, the burden of providing a sufficient record to establish trial court error always lies with the party who is claiming that the trial court erred.

Unless the record before us affirmatively provides some reason to conclude to the contrary, the trial court is presumed to know the law governing settlements and to have properly applied it at the December 1998 hearing. Because the record before us contains no basis upon which we can conclude that the presumption normally accorded to the trial court should not apply, we affirm.

In light of our conclusion on this issue, we decline to address Webster's other claim of error.

For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Affirmed.

KNECHT, J., concurs.

COOK, P.J., dissents.

PRESIDING JUSTICE COOK, ...


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