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State Farm Insurance Company v. Rodrigues

August 27, 2001

STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
ARTURO RODRIGUES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 M1 14527 The Honorable John G. Laurie and Donald J. Suriano, Judges Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cohen

UNPUBLISHED

Plaintiff State Farm Insurance Company (or State Farm Mutual Insurance Company), filed a subrogation action against defendant Arturo Rodrigues for allegedly damaging the vehicle of plaintiff's insured, Marya Pisarski. Plaintiff alleged that on June 19, 1996, defendant's motor vehicle struck and damaged Pisarski's parked and unoccupied vehicle on Pulaski Road in Chicago. Plaintiff sought $4,142.55 in damages, plus costs. Plaintiff's counsel was present at an arbitration hearing on April 5, 2000. Pisarski was not present and the hearing proceeded without her. The arbitrators entered an award for plaintiff and against defendant in the amount of $4,157.65. Defendant rejected the arbitration award pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 93. 166 Ill. 2d R. 93. At trial on September 8, 2000, the circuit court entered judgment for defendant. The September 8 judgment order reflected that plaintiff had been barred from presenting any evidence at trial pursuant to a previous order entered on June 26, 2000, in which the court found that plaintiff had failed to arbitrate in good faith. The September 8, 2000, order was part of the record on appeal, but the June 26, 2000, order was not made a part of the record on appeal. *fn1 Plaintiff appeals from both orders, contending that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that plaintiff failed to arbitrate in good faith.

The record on appeal also lacks transcripts of the April 5, 2000, arbitration hearing or any of the proceedings in the circuit court. The record does contain plaintiff's documentary evidence relating to the alleged damages and repairs.

The arbitrators entered an award, file-stamped at 9:09 a.m. on April 5, 2000, in favor of plaintiff which stated as follows:

"We find on behalf of the plaintiff, State Farm Mutual and against the defendant Arturo Rodriguez [sic] in the amount of $4,157.65."

On April 21, 2000, defendant filed his notice of rejection of the arbitration award, and requested a trial.

On April 25, 2000, defendant filed a motion for sanctions pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 91, paragraphs (a) and (b). 145 Ill. 2d R. 91(a), (b). In the motion, defendant inexplicably sought to debar plaintiff from rejecting the arbitration award, and erroneously stated that "an [arbitration] award was entered in favor of the defendant." Defendant also sought to bar plaintiff from testifying or producing any evidence at trial because the insured had failed to appear at the arbitration hearing.

On April 28, 2000, plaintiff filed a response, arguing that the motion should be denied because the arbitration award favored plaintiff, and because defendant, not plaintiff, had rejected the arbitration award. Plaintiff also argued that the motion should be denied because plaintiff was present, through counsel, at the arbitration hearing. Plaintiff argued that defendant testified at the arbitration hearing that defendant struck a parked and unoccupied vehicle that belonged to plaintiff's insured and that the collision caused the damage disclosed in plaintiff's arbitration package, which was allowed into evidence.

On May 19, 2000, defendant filed a new motion for sanctions, in which defendant again sought to bar plaintiff from testifying or presenting any evidence at trial. Defendant again erroneously stated that "an [arbitration] award was entered in favor of the defendant."

On June 1, 2000, plaintiff filed a response to defendant's May 19 motion for sanctions, reaffirming its previous arguments, and arguing further that defendant's motion should be denied because defendant's Rule 237 (166 Ill. 2d R. 237) notice requested production of someone named "Danielle Radtke," and did not request production of either an officer, director, or employee of plaintiff, or of plaintiff's insured, Marya Pisarski. Attached to plaintiff's response were copies of a September 14, 1999, motion by defendant Arturo Rodrigues to vacate defaults. Also attached were three documents filed on that same date, September 14, 1999, by a different defendant (Danielle Radtke) in a different case (State Farm Mutual Insurance Company v. Danielle Radtke, 99 M1 10777), namely, an appearance and jury demand, a notice to produce, and a trial lawyer's appearance.

The record does not contain a copy of any order entered on defendant's motions to bar plaintiff from presenting any testimony or evidence at trial. On appeal, the parties do not dispute that Judge John G. Laurie entered an order finding that plaintiff had not participated in the arbitration hearing in good faith, and barring plaintiff from presenting testimony or evidence at trial.

On September 8, 2000, Judge Donald J. Suriano entered the following order:

"This matter coming to be heard for trial, the court being fully advised in the premises and retaining jurisdiction, it is hereby ordered, the defendant having waived the jury and this matter being heard as a bench trial, it is hereby ordered Judgment is entered in favor of the defendant, as plaintiff is barred from presenting any evidence at ...


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