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Buffington v. Yungen

May 14, 2001

JEREMY BUFFINGTON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RICHARD YUNGEN AND TAMMIE YUNGEN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 98--AR--674 Honorable Timothy R. Gill, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne

Defendants, Richard Yungen and Tammie Yungen, appeal the order of the circuit court of Winnebago County entering a default judgment in favor of plaintiff, Jeremy Buffington. We reverse and remand.

The record discloses the following. On September 25, 1998, plaintiff filed a four-count complaint against defendants to recover for personal injuries and property damage allegedly sustained by plaintiff when his car collided with a car driven by Richard and owned by Tammie. Counts I and II alleged property and bodily injury damages against Richard. Counts III and IV alleged property and bodily injury damages against Tammie.

On November 24, 1998, the trial court ordered defendants to file a written answer and a Supreme Court Rule 222 (166 Ill. 2d R. 222) disclosure statement within 21 days. The matter was also set to March 25, 1999, for an arbitration hearing.

On January 11, 1999, plaintiff filed a notice compelling the appearance of witnesses, a notice of intent pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 90 (145 Ill. 2d R. 90), a notice to produce, and interrogatories to Richard and Tammie. On February 9, 1999, the trial court entered a default judgment against defendants for failing to file an answer. On February 25, 1999, the trial court vacated the default conditioned upon defendants' paying $300 in attorney fees to plaintiff's attorney.

On March 5, 1999, Richard filed a motion to strike and dismiss count II "in lieu of answer" because another claim, count I of No. 98--AR--776 directed against Richard for the same accident and the same bodily injury claim as count II of the present complaint, was pending. Richard argued that it would expose him to two judgments for the same alleged wrong and he should not be made to answer twice for the same action. Plaintiff filed a motion to consolidate the two cases. On March 9, 1999, the court granted plaintiff's motion to consolidate and dismissed count II of the present claim.

On March 17, 1999, plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery. On March 18, 1999, the trial court granted defendants 21 days to complete discovery and set the arbitration hearing date to April 19, 1999.

On April 2, 1999, defendants filed a Rule 222 disclosure statement and an answer to the complaint. Defendants also filed an appearance and jury demand. On April 8, 1999, the court granted defendants leave to answer counts III and IV of plaintiff's complaint. On April 13, 1999, defendants filed an amended answer to plaintiff's complaint and a motion for summary judgment as to counts III and IV directed against Tammie.

On April 22, 1999, plaintiff filed a motion for discovery sanctions against defendants for their failure to respond to the discovery. The trial court granted the motion, sanctioning defendants with $400 in attorney fees.

On May 27, 1999, the parties appeared before the trial court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. No other motions were pending. Without ruling on defendants' motion for summary judgment, the trial court struck the amended answer and entered a default judgment against defendants for failing to respond to discovery as previously ordered.

On June 3, 1999, following a prove-up, the trial court entered judgment for plaintiff against defendants, jointly and severally, as to counts I and III for property damage to plaintiff's car in the amount of $4,325, plus costs, and against Tammie as to count IV for bodily injuries in the amount of $1,388, plus costs. Defendants filed a motion to vacate and attached answers to interrogatories. On July 1, 1999, the trial court denied the motion.

On July 1, 1999, the trial court vacated the default judgment against Tammie as to count IV on plaintiff's motion. Thereafter, Tammie filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, and count IV was dismissed.

On December 16, 1999, the trial court severed the consolidated cases and entered a final judgment against defendants as to counts I and III. Case No. 98--AR--776 remains pending. There are no reports of the proceedings included in the record on appeal.

On appeal, defendants contend that the trial court abused its discretion in entering the default order and denying their motion to vacate. They claim that (1) their actions did not exhibit a deliberate, contumacious, or unwarranted disregard for the trial court's authority; (2) they had no notice that a motion to strike the answers and to enter a default judgment would be presented to the trial court when the court, sua sponte, entered judgment against them; (3) they were improperly sanctioned twice for the same conduct; and (4) the trial court failed ...


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