The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge
Lyle Vander Schaaf, the personal representative of the estate of Gregory Vander Schaaf ("Gregory's Estate") brought this action pursuant to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act against Midwest Transfer & Logistics, LLC and Mark Rhodes.*fn1 Gregory was survived by his mother, siblings and son. The defendants filed a motion to strike, contending that the complaint's references to relatives who survived Gregory, other than his son, were irrelevant because these relatives are ineligible beneficiaries under the Wrongful Death Act. Because it appeared that the motion to strike was unopposed, the court granted it. Gregory's Estate filed a timely motion to reconsider. For the following reasons, after considering the issue afresh, the motion to reconsider is granted, and the court denies the motion to strike.
The following facts are drawn from the second amended complaint filed by Gregory's Estate and are accepted as true for purposes of the motion to strike.*fn2 On April 19, 2006, Gregory Vander Schaaf, a South Dakota citizen, was killed in a two-vehicle accident involving a vehicle driven by Mark Rhodes on Route 20 near Coral, Illinois. At the time of the accident, Mr. Rhodes was operating a vehicle in the course and scope of his employment with Midwest, a limited liability corporation. Midwest's sole managing member is American Wood Recycling, Inc. an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois.
Gregory was survived by Lyle Vander Schaaf (his brother), Kara Donoghue and Lynnette Vander Schaaf (his sisters), Marilyn Vander Schaaf (his mother), and Stephen Sorgatz (his biological son, who had been adopted by the husband of Stephen's biological mother).*fn3
Following the accident, Gregory's Estate, through its personal representative Lyle Vander Schaaf, filed this action against Midwest and Mr. Rhodes under the Wrongful Death Act.
This action was initially assigned to the late Judge James Moran. On February 23, 2009, Gregory's Estate filed its second amended complaint. Subsequently, on March 17, 2009, the defendants moved to strike the portions of the second amended complaint which refer to Gregory's survivors other than Stephen. During 2009, several of the court's colleagues entered orders on Judge Moran's behalf while he was on leave. Judge St. Eve ordered Gregory's Estate to respond to the motion to strike by April 22, 2009, and set a status date on June 3, 2009. According to Gregory's Estate, the parties expected the case to be transferred back to Judge Moran shortly after the status. Following Judge Moran's death, however, Judge St. Eve struck the June 3, 2009, status date and the case was reassigned to this court.
As a result, it appears there was a misunderstanding surrounding the submission dates for the response to the motion to strike. The parties disagree as to whether they agreed to an extension amongst themselves (a practice not permitted by this court, to avoid situations like the present one and because the parties cannot unilaterally alter dates set by the court). Regardless, this court reviewed the file when the case was reassigned to it, and believed that the motion to strike was unopposed. It thus granted the motion on May 1, 2009, stating:
This case was recently reassigned to this court. The defendants' motion to strike portions of the second amended complaint is before the court. The plaintiffs' response was due on April 22, 2009, and they did not file a response so the court will rule without the benefit of their views. The parties agree that Illinois law controls. As a matter of basic probate law, the decedent's mother or siblings may not recover under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act given the existence of a surviving descendant and the lack of a surviving spouse. Thus, the motion to strike  is granted, and all portions of the complaint indicating that the decedent's mother or siblings may recover are stricken.
On May 15, 2009, Gregory's Estate filed a motion to reconsider the May 1st order, and the court set a briefing schedule. The fully briefed motion to ...