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Johnson v. Johnson & Bell, Ltd.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

February 24, 2014

MERDELIN JOHNSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHNSON AND BELL, LTD., and TARGET CORPORATION, ROBERT BURKE, and JENNIFER ROSE, Defendants-Appellees

Page 53

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 L 8493. The Honorable Jeffrey Lawrence, Judge, presiding.

Affirmed.

Merdelin Johnson, Plaintiff-Appellant, Pro se.

For Johnson and Bell, Jennifer Rose, Robert Burke, Defendants-Appellees: David M. Macksey, Garrett L. Boehm, Jr., Anne E. Zipfel, Johnson & Bell, Ltd., Chicago, Illinois.

For Target Corporation, Defendant-Appellee: Michael Resis, Michael J. McGowan, Smithamundsen LLC, Chicago, Illinois.

PRESIDING JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cunningham and Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

CONNORS, PRESIDING JUSTICE

Page 54

[¶1] Plaintiff Merdelin Johnson (plaintiff) filed suit against defendants Johnson & Bell, Ltd. (Johnson & Bell), Target Corporation (Target), Robert Burke, and Jennifer Rose (collectively, defendants) alleging invasion of privacy, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract. Defendants filed a motion pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2010)) to dismiss, contending that plaintiff's claims were barred by the absolute litigation privilege, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. The trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, and plaintiff now appeals.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] Prior to this lawsuit, plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against Target, alleging that she suffered injuries when she slipped and fell in one of Target's stores. Plaintiff originally filed her complaint in the circuit court of Cook County, but Target removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Attorneys Robert Burke and Jennifer Rose of Johnson & Bell represented Target in the lawsuit.

[¶4] Prior to trial in that suit, a joint final pretrial order was prepared and signed by all parties, including plaintiff. The final pretrial order had appendices containing all exhibits and deposition transcripts the parties planned to use at trial. The final pretrial order was entered into the Northern District's electronic filing system on August 16, 2010. The case proceeded to trial on August 30, 2010, and a jury verdict was entered in favor of Target and against plaintiff on August 31, 2010. On September 29, 2010, plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed the trial court in Johnson v. Target Corp., 487 F. Appx 298 (7th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 1735, 185 L.Ed.2d 803 (2013).

[¶5] During the pendency of that appeal, plaintiff purportedly discovered that unbeknownst to her, certain documents were attached to the final pretrial order that included her social security number, date of birth, financial information, medical information, and references to " G.J.", a minor. She filed a motion in the District Court, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 5.2 and 37 (Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2, 37), requesting that the court seal and redact certain documents, and for sanctions against Target for violating the court's redaction rules and failing to protect plaintiff's right to privacy. Plaintiff claimed that on August 12, 2010, she met with Target's counsel and told them to redact her personal information from certain documents, pursuant to Rule 5.2(a) (Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(a). Plaintiff argued that the failure to redact was extreme bad faith on the part of Target, ...


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