Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 M1 301429 Honorable John G. Laurie, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Theis
Plaintiffs Arlanda King and Tamika Duprey brought this negligence action to recover damages from injuries allegedly sustained in an automobile accident in which they were passengers in a vehicle operated by defendant Dianna McGruder Greene *fn1 that collided with a vehicle operated by defendant Kevin Clay. After plaintiffs won the arbitration, Clay filed a notice of rejection of the arbitration award and a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted his summary judgment motion. On appeal, plaintiffs assert that the trial court abused its - 1 -discretion in imposing sanctions against them and erred in granting Clay's motion for summary judgment. Additionally, plaintiffs argue that the trial court violated one of its local rules by granting Clay's motion to compel discovery after the discovery closure date. We agree that summary judgment was improperly granted in this case and reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiffs filed their complaint on March 8, 2000. On May 12, 2000, Clay propounded interrogatories, a notice of deposition for July 11, 2000, a request for production of documents and a notice to produce plaintiffs at arbitration and at trial. On May 18, 2000, plaintiffs served Clay with interrogatories, a notice of deposition for July 11, 2000, and a request for production of documents. On October 31, 2000, Clay served plaintiffs with a notice of deposition for November 30, 2000. On December 19, 2000, Duprey filed her answer to Clay's interrogatories. The trial court ordered that discovery be completed by January 26, 2001, and assigned the cause to mandatory arbitration.
On January 22, 2001, Clay filed his answers to plaintiffs' interrogatories and filed a motion to compel plaintiffs to answer outstanding written discovery and/or to appear for a discovery deposition. Clay did not request sanctions. The trial court entered an order on January 30, 2001, compelling plaintiffs to answer all written discovery by February 13, 2001, and to appear for a deposition within 21 days. The trial court's January 30 order also contained the following boilerplate language:
"Failure to comply with the specific terms of this order will result in the plaintiff being barred from testifying and presenting any evidence at the arbitration and/or trial of this matter.
The above stated sanction shall remain in effect until removed by order of court upon motion by the party against whom the sanction applies." (Emphasis in original). King filed his answers to Clay's interrogatories on February 16, 2001.
On March 30, 2001, an arbitration hearing was held with plaintiffs and Clay present. Although the record is silent on the matter, plaintiffs represent in their brief that they testified, were cross- examined and presented evidence at the arbitration and Clay concedes this representation. The arbitration award states that the hearing lasted about 90 minutes. The arbitrators found in favor of King in the amount of $4,272.88 and in favor of Duprey in the amount of $4,757.88. After determining that "no evidence" was presented against McGruder Greene, the arbitrator found in her favor. Clay filed a timely notice of rejection of the arbitration award on April 6, 2001.
On April 27, 2001, Clay filed a motion for summary judgment. He stated in his motion that "[p]laintiffs did not comply with the specific terms of the January 30, 2001 order" because "[p]laintiffs were not presented for deposition before February 20, 2001." Consequently, "[p]laintiffs are barred from testifying and presenting any evidence at trial, therefore no issue of material facts exists, and judgment should be entered for the [d]efendant as a matter of law."
Plaintiffs responded and requested that the trial court deny Clay's motion, vacate the order of January 30, 2001, and set a date for plaintiffs' depositions. Plaintiffs stated that they were "ready to proceed for deposition but require[d] defense counsel's law firm to give [them] a date to appear." Attached to plaintiffs' response was the sworn affidavit of the deposition clerk for plaintiffs' attorney. She attested that "defense counsel never gave [her] another date [after the November 30, 2000, notice] for the plaintiffs to come in for deposition despite the entry of the January 30, 2001 order."
In his reply, Clay stated that "[p]laintiffs' counsel made no effort to present [p]laintiffs for deposition" after the trial court entered the January 30, 2001 order and attached the affidavit of his attorney's deposition clerk, who corroborated that statement. The trial court granted Clay's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Clay and against plaintiffs. The record does not contain a transcript of this hearing and the written order is silent as to the court's reasoning. Additionally, the court did not create a separate order explaining in detail the reasons and basis for the sanctions imposed against plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider and asserted that "discovery closed in this case on January 26, 2001, and at the time of entry of the January 30, 2001, order, discovery was already closed." Plaintiffs stated that while the January 30, 2001 order required plaintiffs to appear for depositions within 21 days, Clay never gave them a date to appear for their depositions during that time. Plaintiffs attached King's affidavit that said they "appeared at the arbitration hearing and [were] willing to appear for deposition if [the trial court] deem[ed] it appropriate." The trial court denied plaintiffs' motion. Plaintiffs then filed this timely appeal.
In granting Clay's motion for summary judgment, the trial court apparently made two rulings. First, it imposed sanctions against plaintiffs, presumably under Supreme Court Rule 219(c), for failing to give their depositions before the date specified in the January 30, 2001 order. 166 Ill. 2d R. 219(c). We note that neither party questions the trial court's authority to impose sanctions on its own motion and, thus, decline to address that issue. Second, based on its sanction barring plaintiffs from testifying or presenting evidence at trial, the trial court granted summary judgment to Clay because no genuine issue of material fact remained. We will address each ruling separately.
While plaintiffs contend that the trial court abused its discretion by barring them from testifying and presenting evidence at trial as a sanction for their alleged failure to give their depositions, they do not address the issue of whether they violated the court's order. Accordingly, without addressing the issue of whether plaintiffs violated the court's order, we will ...