Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John G. Laurie, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien
Plaintiff, Wendy Hernandez, appeals the order of the circuit court dismissing her complaint against defendants, New Rogers Pontiac, Inc., and General Motors Corporation, on res judicata grounds. On appeal, plaintiff argues that res judicata does not apply, because there was no prior final judgment on the merits of her lawsuit. We affirm.
At the evidentiary hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff testified that she purchased a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am from defendant New Rogers Pontiac, Inc. Plaintiff subsequently discovered that her Grand Am was defectively sealed, causing water to leak into the car during rainstorms.
Plaintiff testified that in April 2000 she e-mailed an attorney, Adam Krohn, to "see if [she] had a case." Mr. Krohn called plaintiff at work, and they discussed the problems that she was having with the car. However, plaintiff testified that she did not authorize Mr. Krohn to file a lawsuit on her behalf.
On April 25, 2000, plaintiff received a letter from Mr. Krohn stating in pertinent part:
"Please allow this letter to confirm our conversation of April 25, 2000, at which time you engaged our firm to represent you regarding your 'lemon law/breach of warranty' claim. *** We have agreed that you will remain responsible only for the 'out-of- pocket' costs (not attorney time) associated with your claim. These costs total anywhere from $303.40 to $466.80 (depending on the defendant)***. We have agreed to defer these costs until the resolution of your case. The only cost you have to pay during the pendency of your claim is the $150.00 inspection fee." (Emphasis in original.)
Plaintiff never signed the letter or had the car inspected.
In April and May, plaintiff received the following correspondence from Mr. Krohn: a letter thanking her for choosing the law firm of Krohn & Moss; a letter stating that plaintiff had a claim under the Magnuson- Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act (Magnuson-Moss Act) (15 U.S.C. §2301 (1994)) and the Uniform Commercial Code (810 ILCS 5/1-101 (West 1992)); and a letter informing her that the firm had prepared a lawsuit.
On May 25, 2000, Krohn & Moss filed a three-count complaint naming the plaintiff against defendant General Motors seeking damages for alleged breaches of written and implied warranties and revocation of acceptance pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Act.
Plaintiff testified that she never received a copy of the complaint and that she never authorized Mr. Krohn to file a lawsuit on her behalf. Plaintiff also testified that she never responded to any of Mr. Krohn's correspondence, "because [she] figured [she'd] have to sign something for him to go and file the lawsuit."
In June, Mr. Krohn's secretary called plaintiff at work and mentioned "some sort of letter that [she] needed to sign" and also asked her if she was going to have the car inspected. Plaintiff never signed any letter or had the car inspected; instead, plaintiff testified that she "blew off" Mr. Krohn's secretary. When asked why she had "blow[n] her off", plaintiff testified:
"[A]t the time, my car wasn't giving me any more problems, and I wasn't sure I needed to [sue] anymore."
Plaintiff testified that in June 2000, she sent an e-mail to Mr. Krohn telling him that her car was fixed and that she did not want him to pursue a ...