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Jenkins v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

June 20, 2008

NORENE JENKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION D/B/A AMTRAK. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge Northern District of Illinois

Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Norene Jenkins ("Jenkins" or "Plaintiff") filed suit against Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak" or "Defendant") alleging various claims related to events leading up to, and after, she boarded an Amtrak train destined for Chicago. The Second Amended Complaint included the following ten claims: (1) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (2) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (3) negligence; (4) violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (the "ADA"); (5) battery; (6) false imprisonment; (7) breach of contract; (8) negligent misrepresentation; (9) common law fraud; and (10) violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act ("CFA"). Amtrak previously moved to dismiss Counts I through VI and Counts VIII through X. On January 3, 2008, the Court granted Amtrak's Motion to Dismiss Counts IX and X on the basis of preemption, but denied Amtrak's Motion to Dismiss Counts I through VI and VIII ("January 3, 2008 Order"). With respect to Counts I through VI, the Court concluded that Jenkins failed to timely file her claims, but converted the Motion to Dismiss to one for summary judgment as to the issue of whether Amtrak is estopped from raising a statute of limitations defense. Pursuant to the Court's January 3, 2008 Order, Amtrak now moves for summary judgment on Counts I through VI. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Equitable Estoppel is granted and Counts I through VI are dismissed with prejudice.

STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED FACTS

Amtrak is a federally-chartered corporation doing business within Illinois.*fn1 (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 3.)At all relevant times, Jenkins was a resident of Cook County, Illinois. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 2; Second Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) In August 2004, Jenkins purchased tickets to travel on Amtrak, departing from Illinois on August 9, 2004 and returning from California on August 12, 2004. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 4; Second Am. Compl. ¶ 5.)

On August 10, 2005, Jenkins filed a Complaint against Amtrak in the Circuit Court of Cook County ("the Circuit Court"), alleging various claims related to events occurring during her August 12 return trip ("the First Action"). (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 5; Def. Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Complaint, Aug. 12, 2005.) On March 10, 2006, Jenkins voluntarily dismissed the First Action pursuant to Section 2-1009 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 6.) Subsequently, on August 14, 2006, Jenkins filed a Complaint for Discovery in the Circuit Court pursuant to Section 2-402 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure ("Respondent in Discovery Action"). (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 7.) The Complaint for Discovery named Amtrak as a "Respondent in Discovery." (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 8.)

In September 2006, counsel for Jenkins, Troy Lundquist ("Lundquist"), and counsel for Amtrak, Susan Laing ("Laing"), spoke on two occasions regarding the Complaint for Discovery.

(Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 11.) First, on September 22, 2006, Laing called Lundquist to introduce herself as Amtrak's attorney and to inform him that Amtrak had been served with summons and the Complaint for Discovery (the "September 22 conversation"). (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 2.) During the conversation, Laing and Lundquist discussed, among other things, how Lundquist was familiar with Laing's law firm as a result of each firm's respective practices in defending against medical malpractice cases. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 3; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss., Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. at 13-14.) Laing advised Lundquist that she believed the Complaint for Discovery was invalid because the complaint failed to name a defendant, but that she would research the issue further.(Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 4; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss., Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. at 14-15.) Lundquist disagreed with Laing's position regarding the Complaint for Discovery. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12.) Laing informed Lundquist that she needed to gather some additional information regarding the case and would follow-up with Lundquist. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 4.)

Three days later, on September 25, 2006, Laing placed a second telephone call to Lundquist (the "September 25 conversation"). (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 5.) While it is undisputed that the two attorneys discussed the possibility of reaching a settlement in the matter, the parties disagree as to a majority of the communications relayed during the September 25 conversation. (Id.)

According to Lundquist, Laing advised Lundquist that she wanted to remove the matter to federal court, but was concerned with the timeliness of the removal if the desired removal was delayed.*fn2 ( Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 6; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) Laing told Lundquist that she did not want to have a situation where Jenkins would raise the statutory time limit as an objection. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 6; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) Laing further advised Lundquist that, although she did not believe the Respondent in Discovery Action could be maintained as filed, if Lundquist anticipated raising such an objection to removal, she wanted Lundquist to tell her of the same and she would not wait to file a motion for removal or dismissal. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 12-13; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 6-7; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 17-22.) Lundquist told Laing that he did not want to engage in further filings until the parties had a chance to see where the matter was heading. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 18-19.) The two attorneys then discussed Jenkins's general allegations and certain information in Lundquist's possession. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 19.) Laing told Lundquist that she was not in a position to answer the allegations. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 19-20.)

Lundquist further testified that, in conjunction with this conversation and as a result of Laing's question regarding the timeliness of removal, Lundquist inquired as to Laing's intention, if any, regarding any argument that the statute of limitations had expired. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 8; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 21-22; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) Lundquist indicated to Laing that he did not believe the parties needed to address the timing of Amtrak's removal as long as there would be no argument asserted by Amtrak based upon the statute of limitations in the event that the parties proceeded by having Laing gather additional information and attempt settlement. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 9; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 21-22; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) Laing stated that she did not think Jenkins had any statute of limitations concerns. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 9; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 21-22; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) Lundquist responded that he did not think Jenkins had any statute of limitations concerns either, but that, if the parties were going to forgo formal action in court while engaging in settlement discussions, he did not want to have disagreements regarding the statute of limitations issue. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 9; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 21-22; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) Lundquist told Laing that, once Laing received the results of her internal investigation, he and Laing could further discuss the matter and see if the matter could be resolved. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 21-22.) Laing replied that his suggestion was fine and that she would get back to Lundquist. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 21-22, 30-31.)

Lundquist testified that he believed he and Laing reached a mutual understanding during the September 25 call: if Jenkins did not oppose Amtrak's eventual removal of the matter to federal court, Amtrak would not assert a statute of limitations defense with respect to Jenkins's claims. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 11; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 24-25, 31-32; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.) According to Lundquist, the understanding was reached for the agreed upon purpose of allowing the parties to exchange information informally and explore the possibility of settlement. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 11; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 34-35; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Aff. ¶ 8.)

Laing's account of the September 25 conversation differs in multiple respects. Laing admits that the parties discussed the possibility of reaching a settlement in the matter. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 5.) Laing also admits that the parties discussed removal, but contests the scope of their discussion regarding removal. According to Laing, Laing told Lundquist that she did not believe the Respondent in Discovery Action was a proper complaint because it did not include a named defendant, that the action could not be maintained as filed, and that she did not have to appear in the state court proceeding, mainly because the bill for discovery did not require her appearance. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 6-7 Pl. Resp. Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Laing Dep. at 21, 30-31, 38-39.) Laing also told Lundquist that, if the parties could not settle and if Jenkins re-filed the lawsuit, Laing would remove the case to federal court. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 6-7 Pl. Resp. Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Laing Dep. at 21, 30-31, 38-39.) Laing denies, however, that she: (1) discussed removing the Respondent in Discovery Action to federal court; (2) raised any concerns regarding the timeliness of any potential removal; (3) inquired as to Lundquist's intention to raise the timeliness issue; or (4) reached any agreement with Lundquist with respect to the timeliness of removal. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 6-10; Pl. Resp. Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Laing Dep. at 28-34, 38-39.) With respect to the statute of limitations issue, Laing admits that, at some point during the conversation, she told Lundquist that she did not believe Jenkins had any statute of limitations concerns and that Lundquist responded that he also did not believe that Jenkins had any limitations concerns.*fn3 (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 10.) Laing denies, however, that any of the following communications occurred: (1) Lundquist inquired as to any argument that the statute of limitations would be raised as a defense; (2) Lundquist told Laing that he did not believe the parties needed to address the timing of removal as long as Amtrak would not assert a statute of limitations defense in the event that the parties proceeded by gathering information and attempting to settle; and (3) Lundquist told Laing that he did not want any disagreement regarding the statute of limitations if the parties refrained from formal action while attempting to settle. (Def. 56.1 Resp.¶¶ 8-12; Pl. Resp. Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Laing Dep. 28-34, 38-42.) Laing also denies that the parties ever reached the above-mentioned "mutual understanding," the purpose of which was to allow the parties to exchange information and explore settlement. (Def. 56.1 Resp.¶ 11; Pl. Resp. Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Laing Dep. 28-34, 38-42.)

At the time of the September 25 conversation, Lundquist understood the law governing the limitations period as follows: within one year after the date of a plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of a suit, the plaintiff must either file the complaint or, with respect to a discovery action, file a motion to convert the respondent to a defendant. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ΒΆ 17; Def. Reply Mtn. Dismiss, Ex. A, Lundquist Dep. 27-29.) He was not, however, aware of a specific expiration date with ...


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