Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 99-AR-1924 Honorable Richard A. Lucas, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Geiger
The defendant, Tonya Gleash, appeals from the September 6, 2000, order of the circuit court of Du Page County imposing sanctions on her in the amount of $4,350, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 91(b) (145 Ill. 2d R. 91(b)). On appeal, Gleash contends that the trial court's award of sanctions was an abuse of discretion. We affirm as modified.
The facts relevant to the disposition of this appeal are as follows. On August 27, 1999, the plaintiff, Melissa Smith, filed a complaint against the defendants, Gleash and Peggy D. Smith, alleging that she was injured in an August 28, 1997, traffic accident. On December 2, 1999, the trial court assigned the case to mandatory arbitration and set the arbitration hearing for March 6, 2000, at 8:30 a.m. On December 2, 1999, the trial court also defaulted Gleash, as she had not yet appeared or answered the plaintiff's complaint.
Subsequently, the law firm of Meade, Engleberg, & Associates (Meade, Engleberg) filed an appearance on Gleash's behalf. On December 16, 1999, Gleash moved to vacate the default order against her. On February 9, 2000, the trial court granted Gleash's motion and rescheduled the arbitration hearing for April 11, 2000, at 9 a.m. Gleash subsequently filed a motion to be excused from the arbitration or, in the alternative, to testify at the arbitration hearing via telephone. On March 7, 2000, the trial court granted Gleash's motion, allowing her to testify via telephone.
On April 11, 2000, neither Gleash nor Meade, Engleberg was present when the arbitration hearing started. An attorney from Meade, Engleberg eventually appeared on Gleash's behalf at 10:15 a.m., when the arbitrators were already deliberating. Gleash never appeared or telephoned the arbitration center. Following their deliberations, the arbitrators entered an award against Gleash in the amount of $3,500 plus costs. In addition, the panel of arbitrators unanimously found that Gleash had failed to participate in the arbitration hearing in good faith, as required by Supreme Court Rule 91(b). The arbitrators' award indicated that Gleash's failure to participate in good faith was based on her failure to appear.
Gleash subsequently filed a motion to reject the award and requested that the matter be set for trial. On May 12, the trial court struck the motion and entered judgment on the award in the amount of $3,500 plus costs. On May 31, 2000, Gleash filed a motion to vacate the judgment. In her motion, Gleash argued that extenuating circumstances prevented her from participating in the hearing. In support of her motion, Gleash attached affidavits from herself and Roselyn Pickett, an attorney with Meade, Engelberg. In her affidavit, Gleash stated that she failed to call the arbitration center because she believed that the hearing started at 11 a.m. In her affidavit, Pickett stated that she arrived late for the hearing because her car would not start. On June 8, 2000, the court denied the motion.
On July 7, 2000, the plaintiff filed a petition seeking sanctions of $4,350 in attorney fees against Gleash, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 91(b). In her petition, the plaintiff alleged that Gleash had failed to participate in the hearing in good faith. The plaintiff submitted an affidavit from Jim Pappas, her attorney, attesting to the fees she incurred in the prosecution of the instant case. Pappas stated that he performed the following services at a standard rate of $150 per hour and a rate $200 per hour in court:
Description of Service Hours
Preparing the lawsuit and summons 1.0
October 6, 1999, court appearance to obtain an alias summons for Gleash 1.0
Reviewing Peggy Smith's counterclaim and affirmative defenses against Gleash .4
Preparing an answer to Peggy Smith's affirmative defenses .5
November 4, 1999, court appearance regarding case status and Gleash's default 1.0
Reviewing Gleash's response to requests to produce .5
January 18, 2000, court appearance regarding Gleash's motion to vacate default and continue arbitration 1.0
Preparing Rule 90(c) package and Rule 213(e) notice 1.0
Preparing answers to interrogatories and requests ...