Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable James P. McCarthy, John G. Laurie and Patrick S. Lustig, Judges Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman
The defendant, Barbrielle Buford, appeals from orders of the circuit court which: prospectively barred her from testifying and presenting evidence at a mandatory arbitration hearing if she failed to answer written discovery by a specified date; barred her from rejecting an arbitration award in favor of the plaintiff, Government Employees Insurance Company; entered judgment on the arbitration award in favor of the plaintiff; and modified the judgment entered in favor of the plaintiff on the arbitration award to include a judgment in favor of the third-party defendant, Robert Bower, on the defendant's third-party complaint for contribution. For the reasons which follow, we affirm.
From the limited record before us, we are able to glean the following facts. The plaintiff filed the instant action as subrogee of Robert Bower, asserting a negligence claim against the defendant as the consequence of a collision involving motor vehicles driven by Bower and the defendant. The complaint alleged that the plaintiff insured Bower's vehicle and, as a consequence, became subrogated to his rights against the defendant when it paid for the repairs to Bower's vehicle. The plaintiff sought recovery for the damages to Bower's vehicle.
The defendant answered the plaintiff's complaint, admitting that she was involved in the collision alleged, but denying all charges of negligence. In addition, the defendant filed a "Third Party Complaint for Contribution" against the plaintiff's subrogor, Bower, alleging that Bower was negligent in the operation of his motor vehicle and seeking a judgment in favor of the defendant and against Bower "for Contribution in whole or in part for the negligence attributable to the Third Party Defendant [Bower]." Bower answered the third-party complaint, denying all of the charging allegations contained therein.
On October 26, 2000, Judge McCarthy entered an order which, among other things, set February 23, 2001, as the date upon which all discovery was to be completed and assigned the case for mandatory arbitration.
On February 6, 2001, the plaintiff filed a motion asserting that the defendant had failed to answer interrogatories which were sent to her attorneys on November 20, 2000, and had also failed to respond to a production request sent on the same date. As a sanction, the plaintiff requested that the defendant be barred from testifying or offering evidence either at the arbitration hearing or upon the trial of the cause. On February 15, 2001, Judge McCarthy entered an "Agreed Order" which provided that the defendant was to answer written discovery by March 15, 2001, and that her failure to comply would result in her "being barred from testifying and presenting evidence at the arbitration and/or trial of this matter." The order also provided that the sanction would remain in effect until vacated "upon motion by the party against whom the sanction applies." The record does not contain a transcript of the hearing on February 15, 2001, or a certified bystander's report of the proceedings held on that date.
On March 29, 2001, without leave of court, the defendant filed tardy answers to the plaintiff's interrogatories. There is no evidence in the record that the defendant responded to any production request.
An arbitration hearing was held in the instant matter on April 30, 2001. On that date, the arbitrators entered an award in the sum of $7,486.93 plus costs in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant, which amounted to the full prayer for damages contained in the plaintiff's complaint. The award also provided that: "Defendant was barred from testifying and introducing evidence, pursuant to court order." The record does not contain a transcript of the arbitration proceeding.
On May 7, 2001, the defendant filed a motion to vacate the February 15, 2001, order. In support of this motion, the defendant alleged that she filed her answers to interrogatories on March 29, 2001, that she appeared at the arbitration hearing on April 30, 2001, and that the plaintiff would not be prejudiced if the February 15 order were vacated and she was permitted to testify at trial.
On May 10, 2001, the defendant filed a notice of rejection of the arbitration award and requested a trial.
On June 21, 2001, Judge Laurie denied the defendant's motion to vacate the February 15, 2001, order. The record does not contain a transcript or a certified bystander's report of the proceedings held on that date.
On July 2, 2001, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking an order barring the defendant from rejecting the arbitration award, asserting as grounds both that the defendant was barred from presenting any evidence and that she pled guilty to making an improper left turn. On August 10, 2001, Judge Laurie entered judgment on the arbitration award in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $7,486.93 plus costs and also granted the plaintiff's motion to bar the defendant from rejecting the award. Again, however, the record does not contain a transcript of the hearing on August 10. The record does contain what purports to be a bystander's report of those proceedings, but there is nothing in the record indi-cating that the trial court ever certified that report of proceedings as required by Supreme Court Rule 323(c) (166 Ill. 2d R. 323(c)).
On September 7, 2001, the defendant filed a notice of appeal. However, we dismissed that appeal on March 21, 2002, for want of jurisdiction. We found that, since no order had been entered disposing of the defendant's third-party claim against Bower, the trial court's judgment of August 10, 2001, was not appealable in the absence of any Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)) findings. Government ...