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Amy Stanton v. Carolyn J. Rea and Robert A. Roe

November 2, 2012

AMY STANTON,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CAROLYN J. REA AND ROBERT A. ROE,
DEFENDANTS



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Union County. No. 04-L- 2

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh

NOTICE

The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

(The Department of Public Aid, Union County ) Honorable Hospital, Greg Zimmerman, Roland Barr, and ) Mark H. Clarke, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Appellees). ) Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Donovan and Justice Welch concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Amy Stanton, was injured in an automobile accident in which she was a passenger in a car driven by defendant Carolyn J. Rea (Rea). Rea's car collided with a car driven by defendant Robert A. Roe (Roe). Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the circuit court of Union County against both defendants for injuries she sustained in the accident. Roe was uninsured, and the case proceeded against Rea only. After a verdict, the circuit court of Union County divided funds among the attorney fees, expenses, and the liens of medical providers and treaters, which include the Illinois Department of Public Aid, Union County Hospital, Dr. Greg Zimmerman, Dr. Roland Barr, and Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, appellees herein. Plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider the adjudication of liens, which the trial court denied. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal. The issue on appeal is whether the trial court properly adjudicated the liens of appellees. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On June 13, 2003, plaintiff was a passenger in a car driven by Rea when Rea's car collided with a car driven by Roe. Plaintiff was hospitalized immediately after the accident and incurred hospital bills in excess of $4,000. Roe was uninsured, and the case proceeded against Rea only. Rea's insurance carrier provided her with an attorney who, on her behalf, denied negligence, liability, and damages. Throughout the case, Rea's insurance carrier claimed she was not cooperating with her attorney and tried to avoid coverage. Ultimately, that claim was dropped, and the case proceeded to a jury trial on October 23, 2007. Plaintiff waived a jury trial, but Rea's attorney demanded a trial by jury.

¶ 4 At the close of all the evidence, plaintiff filed a motion for directed verdict against Rea on the issue of negligence and liability. The trial court granted the motion, and a directed verdict was entered in favor of plaintiff and against Rea on the issue of liability. The matter was then submitted to the jury on the issue of damages. The jury awarded damages in the amount of $13,506.80. The trial court entered a judgment on that amount, plus $3,919.79 in costs.

¶ 5 By the time the judgment was entered, out-of-pocket expenses to bring the case to trial had risen to $4,501.44, which included, inter alia, deposition fees. Ultimately, a garnishment was filed to collect the judgment, and a check was issued in the amount $14,520.86. On August 20, 2010, plaintiff filed a petition to adjudicate the liens asserted by appellees. Attorney fees were reduced from the agreed-upon one-third contingency fee to 30%. The trial court divided the funds among attorney fees, expenses, and lien payments, applying 40% of the amount of the verdict to the payment of medical liens pursuant to provisions provided by the Health Care Services Lien Act (Act) (770 ILCS 23/1 to 999 (West 2008)), as follows:

1. Union County Ambulance Service $137.08

2. Union County Hospital ...


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