The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge
Monday, 18 April, 2011 02:02:47 PM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
This matter is before the Court on Respondents' Objections to and Motion for Reconsideration of the Magistrate's Order and Brief in Support Thereof (Doc. 479). Petitioner has timely responded. (Doc. 480). For the following reasons, Respondent's Objections to and Motion for Reconsideration of the Magistrate's Order (Doc. 479) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. It is granted to the extent that the Court herein reconsiders portions of Magistrate Judge Gorman's Order, however all of its objections are DENIED. Magistrate Judge Gorman's Order is AFFIRMED, and Petitioner's Lien is to be paid in full.
The underlying litigation in this matter began in 2004, when Respondent Trish Lee McCloud filed suit against Goodyear Dunlop Tires for injuries she sustained in a motorcycle accident. (Doc. 1). Respondent's claim was tried to a jury, and the jury rendered a verdict in her favor, awarding her damages in the amount of $15,000,000.14. (Doc. 378 at 2). Of this total award, $472,794.14 was for the "reasonable value of necessary medical care, treatment, services and life care needs of [Respondent] to the present time." (Doc. 378 at 1). The verdict was appealed (Doc. 422) and the parties reached a settlement, which was approved by this Court on December 10, 2008 (Doc. 436).
Following the settlement of the case, Petitioner, OSF Healthcare System d/b/a Saint Francis Medical Center ("OSF"), filed a Petition to Adjudicate a Lien pursuant to the Health Care Services Lien Act, 770 ILCS 23/1 et. seq., seeking to recover the $261,902.33 that it had billed to Respondent for medical goods and services provided to her after her motorcycle accident. (Doc. 445). After ordering fuller briefing addressing the merits of the Petition (Doc. 448), as well as the Court's jurisdiction over it (Text Order of 12/18/09), the Court determined that it had ancillary jurisdiction over the Petition pursuant to the settlement agreement, and referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Gorman for further post-judgment proceedings related thereto. (Doc. 454 at 3-4).
Subsequently, Magistrate Judge Gorman presided over all matters relating to the Petition to Adjudicate Liens, including allowing the withdrawal of Petitioner's Motion for Sanctions (Text Order of 3/4/2010), denying a Motion to Compel Discovery filed by Respondent (Doc. 469), and ordering that Petitioner's lien be paid in full (Doc. 478). It is this final order, which adjudicated Petitioner's lien and determined that it should be paid in full, to which Respondent now objects. (Doc. 479). Respondent argues that Magistrate Judge Gorman did not have jurisdiction to enter such an order, and that the order is erroneous and contrary to law.
I.Magistrate Judge Gorman's Jurisdiction
Section 636 of Title 28 of the United States Code sets forth the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. According to that statute, a magistrate judge has jurisdiction to hear and determine various pretrial matters of a non-dispositive nature upon designation by the district judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Further, upon the consent of the parties, a magistrate judge may conduct any or all proceedings in a non-jury civil matter and order entry of judgment in the case, when specially designated to exercise such jurisdiction by the district court. § 636(c)(1). Consent under § 636(c)(1) may be either express or inferred from the parties' conduct during litigation. Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580 (2003). Where a litigant is "made aware of the need for consent and the right to refuse it, and still voluntarily appear[s] to try the case before the Magistrate Judge" consent is properly inferred, and the Magistrate Judge has jurisdiction. Id. at 590. Finally, "a magistrate judge may be assigned such additional duties as are not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States." § 636(b)(3).
Respondent argues that Magistrate Judge Gorman did not have jurisdiction to enter judgment on the Petition to Adjudicate Liens under § 636(c). Specifically, Respondent states that there was never any indication that the Petition was referred to Magistrate Judge Gorman for the purposes of entering judgment, and that therefore Respondent did not consent to his doing so. (Doc. 479 at 2-3). Therefore, Respondent argues that the Court should treat Magistrate Judge Gorman's order as a proposed finding and recommendation pursuant to § 636(b)(1)(B), and engage in a de novo review of the portions of his order to which Respondent now objects. (Doc. 479 at 3).
Petitioner responds that Magistrate Judge Gorman did, in fact, have jurisdiction over their Petition to Adjudicate Liens pursuant to § 636(c)(1), and that therefore his order must be treated as the final judgment of this Court. (Doc. 480 at 2). According to Petitioner, the parties impliedly consented to Magistrate Judge Gorman's jurisdiction pursuant to § 636(c)(1) due to the fact that they voluntarily proceeded before him on numerous occasions after this Court referred the matter to him in its Order and Opinion of January 14, 2010. (Doc. 480 at 2-3). Because Respondent never objected to Magistrate Gorman's jurisdiction prior to his final order adjudicating the lien, Petitioner maintains that the parties consented to his jurisdiction, and cannot now complain simply because his final decision was adverse to them. (Doc. 480 at 2).
The Court is confused over this dispute as Magistrate Judge Gorman never entered any judgment, but instead issued an Order on Petitioner's Petition to Adjudicate Liens, as was referred to him by this Court. This is undoubtedly not a case to which the parties consented pursuant to §636(c)(1), as the parties were never made aware of the need to formally consent to the Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction; nor did they ever expressly do so. Instead, because the power to adjudicate liens is not expressly granted in either the federal statute or this Court's Local Rules, the Court finds that the case was properly referred to Magistrate Judge Gorman pursuant to § 636(b)(3), the ...