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Laatz v. Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency

February 4, 2003

ALAN LAATZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL RISK MANAGEMENT AGENCY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 01-MR-701 Honorable Ronald B. Mehling, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Hutchinson

Plaintiff, Alan Laatz, appeals from the circuit court's denial of his application to vacate an arbitration award rejecting his claim for uninsured motorist benefits against defendant, Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency. Plaintiff argues that the court erred by dismissing his application because the arbitration award was achieved through "undue means" contrary to section 12(a)(1) of the Uniform Arbitration Act (the Arbitration Act) (710 ILCS 5/12(a)(1) (West 2000)). More specifically, he argues that the arbitrator improperly considered the status of his worker's compensation case in making the arbitration award. We affirm.

In accordance with defendant's coverage agreement, plaintiff's claim for uninsured motorist benefits against defendant was submitted to arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (AAA). On May 22, 2001, the arbitrator issued her award. The arbitrator found that plaintiff's comparative negligence in a March 10, 1997, auto collision was greater than 50% and denied plaintiff's uninsured motorist claim.

On August 17, 2001, plaintiff filed with the circuit court an "Application to Vacate an Arbitration Award in an Uninsured Motorist Claim." Defendant moved to dismiss plaintiff's application, contending that the application failed to state a cause of action under section 12(a)(1) of the Arbitration Act. On September 19, 2001, the court granted defendant's motion with prejudice. Plaintiff timely appeals.

Plaintiff contends that, as demonstrated by the following colloquy, the arbitration award was achieved through undue means contrary to section 12(a)(1) of the Arbitration Act.

"MS. KELLY [the arbitrator]: *** This is the end of this arbitration. I have 30 days in which to get the opinion in. Gentlemen, you're going to give me some sleepless nights. This is not an easy case. In fact, it's the most difficult arbitration I've had through [AAA], although I've been on some other panels where there were these kind of severe injuries.

You know, I've got a situation where we're not quibbling over 20- to 30-percent comparative here, but we're quibbling over whether or not if there's a verdict for or against. I don't see where I have much of a choice, except for those two choices.

Just one question: Is the [worker's compensation] case still open?

MR. O'REILLY [defense attorney]: Yes.

***

MR. TURNER [plaintiff's attorney]: Counsel answered you in a very swift manner. Why is the comp case still open, counsel?

MR. O'REILLY: There's no PB in it. There's no lump.

MS. KELLY: No, there was no -- well --

MR. TURNER: That doesn't mean it's still ...


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