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Michelle Eva Mcdonald v. Health Care Service Corporation

June 20, 2012

MICHELLE EVA MCDONALD,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
HEALTH CARE SERVICE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF (THE BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD PLAN OF ILLINOIS, D/B/A BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF ILLINOIS, D/B/A BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE;THE VILLAGE OF VILLA PARK, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 09-L-1114 Honorable Jorge L. Ortiz, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke

JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Bowman and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 This appeal involves a breach of contract action brought by pro se plaintiff, Michelle Eva McDonald, against defendants Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC) and The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan of Illinois, d/b/a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, d/b/a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBS), to recover damages occasioned by the alleged wrongful cancellation of plaintiff's continuing health insurance coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) (29 U.S.C. §1161 et seq. (2006)). HCSC filed against the Village of Villa Park a third-party complaint for indemnification and breach of contract.*fn1 On May 4, 2011, the trial court granted HCSC's motion for summary judgment against plaintiff. The order did not include Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010) language finding no reason for delay of enforcement or appeal. Thereafter, on June 1, 2011, the trial court dismissed the third-party complaint. On June 30, 2011, plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion to vacate the judgment "[e]ntered June 1, 2011." On July 13, 2011, the trial court struck the motion, finding that it had no jurisdiction to address the motion, which was untimely filed. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal on August 9, 2011.

¶ 2 Plaintiff raises several arguments on appeal. HCSC contends that we lack jurisdiction to consider plaintiff's appeal, in part because the postjudgment motion was untimely filed. We disagree, as it was timely filed within 30 days of the June 1 judgment that disposed of all remaining claims and parties. Because plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal within 30 days of the order striking the postjudgment motion, we have jurisdiction over the appeal. However, because the trial court erroneously believed that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the postjudgment motion, we must vacate the order and remand the cause for the trial court to rule on the merits of the motion.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 Plaintiff is a former employee of Villa Park. HCSC and Villa Park entered into an agreement to provide health care benefits to certain employees of Villa Park. Pursuant to the contract, Villa Park was obligated to furnish data to HCSC regarding those employees who were to be covered under Villa Park's policy and notify HCSC of any change in an employee's status under the policy. In addition, Villa Park was obligated to collect premiums from those persons covered under the policy.

¶ 5 Plaintiff was covered by Villa Park's group benefit health insurance plan. Upon plaintiff's retirement as an employee, she elected to enroll for COBRA continuation coverage. Villa Park, as the COBRA administrator, notified HCSC that plaintiff elected COBRA continuation coverage.

¶ 6 Plaintiff paid the premium and Villa Park enrolled plaintiff in COBRA continuation coverage, effective November 1, 2007. Plaintiff was provided COBRA coverage for the month of November 2007. When plaintiff failed to make a subsequent COBRA payment, Villa Park directed HCSC to cancel plaintiff's COBRA coverage.

¶ 7 Plaintiff filed the present action against HCSC based on a breach of contract theory. She alleged that HCSC breached its fiduciary duty to plaintiff: (1) by the "collection and application of premiums"; (2) by "failing to appropriate funds paid by the Plaintiff for premiums subject to the contract"; and (3) by "displacing [HCSC's] obligations to a third party." HCSC then filed a third-party action against Villa Park, based on Villa Park's contractual duties to HCSC with respect to the administration of COBRA and on its agreement to indemnify and hold harmless HCSC for any loss, damage, expense, or liability that might arise from or in connection with untimely or inaccurate data provided by Villa Park to HCSC.

¶ 8 Thereafter, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment against HCSC, and HCSC filed a cross-motion for summary judgment against plaintiff. HCSC also filed a motion for summary judgment against Villa Park. Following argument, the trial court denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted HCSC's motion against plaintiff on all of her claims, except on the issue of whether HCSC failed to appropriate funds paid by plaintiff for COBRA premiums.

¶ 9 HCSC filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court granted on May 4, 2011. The trial court found that HCSC had no duty to collect plaintiff's premiums and did not collect plaintiff's premiums. The trial court also granted in part HCSC's summary judgment motion as to its indemnification and breach of contract claims against Villa Park, finding that Villa Park had a duty to indemnify HCSC and that Villa Park breached the contract.

ΒΆ 10 On June 1, 2011, the trial court entered an order dismissing the third-party complaint against Villa Park. In the same order, the court struck the June 6, 2011, trial ...


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