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James v. Lifeline Mobile Medics

June 30, 2003

DIANE JAMES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LIFELINE MOBILE MEDICS A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 98L150 Honorable G. Michael Prall, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht

UNPUBLISHED

Plaintiff, Diane James, filed a retaliatory discharge case against her employer, defendant, Lifeline Mobile Medics. In May 2002, plaintiff won a jury verdict of $243,969.64 and the trial court entered judgment thereon. In August 2002, plaintiff started proceedings to collect her judgment and defendant filed an appeal (No. 4-02-0712). In September 2002, the parties agreed to settle the case with defendant to pay plaintiff $200,000 on September 17 and $25,000 on October 17, 2002. Defendant failed to pay.

In October 2002, plaintiff issued new garnishment summonses, and the trial court entered a ruling purporting to reform the settlement agreement. Defendant did not pay. In November 2002, defendant moved to terminate supplementary proceedings and for sanctions. The trial court ordered defendant to pay, dismissed the supplementary proceedings, and denied sanctions. Defendant paid by check, which bounced. The court again ordered defendant to pay $227,052.76 by cashier's check.

Defendant paid. In December 2002, plaintiff requested a court order directing defendant to pay the $27,875.97 remaining due on her judgment, which the trial court denied. Plaintiff appeals, arguing (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction in October 2002 to alter plaintiff's judgment and grant defendant's motion to enforce the settlement agreement; and (2) the trial court erred in enforcing a contract defendant breached and procured through misrepresentation. We reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 13, 2003, after a jury trial, plaintiff received a verdict in her favor and was awarded $243,969.64 damages. On May 31, 2002, defendant filed a motion for extension of time to file a posttrial motion and also sought a stay of judgment. The trial court granted defendant the extension, and on July 8, 2002, defendant filed its posttrial motion. On August 6, 2002, after the denial of the motion in all respects, plaintiff started proceedings to collect on her judgment. On August 26, 2002, defendant responded by filing a motion to stay enforcement of the judgment, which it never noticed for hearing, and by filing a notice of appeal. James v. Lifeline Mobile Medics, 4-02-0712 (January 22, 2003) (dismissed for defendant appellant's failure to file a docketing statement).

Meanwhile, defendant contacted plaintiff to discuss settlement, offering $150,000. On September 10, 2002, the parties agreed to settle. The settlement agreement provided, in exchange for plaintiff signing a release, defendant would pay plaintiff $200,000 on or before September 17, 2002, and an additional $25,000 on or before October 17, 2002.

Defendant did not make its first payment on September 17, and when plaintiff demanded payment, defendant said the money was "available" and "can be paid at any time" but would not be paid pending resolution of a tax issue that plaintiff had already informed defendant had no bearing on the settlement. Plaintiff then had citations to discover assets issued in order to collect on her original judgment. Defendant filed a motion to stay the citation proceedings, to enforce the settlement agreement, and for sanctions. In response, plaintiff filed a motion for turnover order to collect the amount of the judgment from defendant. On October 17, 2002, the trial court held a hearing on all pending motions. The trial court took the matter under advisement. On October 21, 2002, plaintiff issued new garnishment summonses. On October 22, 2002, the trial court issued its ruling, "reforming" the settlement agreement to provide defendant should pay plaintiff $225,000 plus "judgment interest" of 9% from September 17, 2002, until paid.

Defendant did not comply with the trial court's order and on November 4, 2002, filed a motion to terminate the supplementary proceedings begun on October 21, 2002, and for sanctions. Plaintiff filed a response to this motion, claiming the court did not have jurisdiction to modify the judgment that she still held and was entitled to enforce as enforcement had never been stayed. On November 8, 2002, the court again ordered defendant to pay plaintiff $225,000 plus interest, dismissed the supplementary proceedings, and denied sanctions. Defendant issued a check to plaintiff, which bounced. On November 20, 2002, the court ordered defendant to pay plaintiff $227,052.76 by cashier's check. Plaintiff received the check and filed a notice of appeal on November 21, 2002, appealing the court's orders of October 22 and November 8 (No. 4-02-0972). On December 6, 2002, plaintiff filed a second motion for turnover order, requesting the court order defendant to pay the remainder due plaintiff on her judgment which, as of November 26, 2002, was $27,875.97. On December 23, 2002, the trial court denied this motion. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal that same day (No. 4-02-1069), and both appeals were later consolidated on plaintiff's motion.

II. ANALYSIS

On appeal, plaintiff contends that (1) the trial court did not have jurisdiction in October 2002 to alter her judgment or enforce the settlement agreement once defendant's appeal was filed and (2) the settlement agreement was unenforceable in any case because it was both breached by defendant and obtained by defendant as a result of misrepresentation.

A. Trial Court Had Jurisdiction

Plaintiff contends the trial court lacked jurisdiction to take the actions it did because once defendant's appeal was filed jurisdiction was limited to the "supplementary proceedings" provided in section 2-1402 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1402 (West 2002)). The question is whether a trial court retains jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement reached after the court otherwise lost jurisdiction because of the filing of a notice of appeal. Enforcement of a settlement agreement is a collateral matter and is not governed by the issues raised in defendant's appeal, i.e., that defendant has no liability to plaintiff or, alternatively, that the amount of damages is too high. The trial court had jurisdiction to entertain supplementary proceedings involving the settlement agreement and ...


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