Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 14-L-79. Honorable J. Edward Prochaska, Judge, Presiding.
For Appellant: Lisa A. Jensen, Jensen Law Office, LLC, Rockford.
For Appellee: Lynne Plum Duffey, Law Offices of Craig L. Manchik & Associates, Chicago.
JUSTICE SPENCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Jorgensen concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Defendants, Alden Park Strathmoor, In
c., and Alden Park Strathmoor, LLC, petitioned for leave to appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010), asking that we answer the question of whether the relation-back doctrine applied to the amended pleadings, filed after the action's limitations period had run, of plaintiff, Richard Calkins. For the reasons set forth herein, we answer the question in the affirmative: the amended pleadings related back to the timely filed complaint.
[¶2] I. BACKGROUND
[¶3] Nancy Kleine passed away on March 26, 2012, prior to the filing of this action. Her probate estate (the Estate) was opened September 28, 2012, and an order appointing Calkins as the special administrator of the Estate was entered January 7, 2013, with letters of office filed the same day.
[¶4] Jim Kleine initiated this action on March 18, 2014, filing a three-count complaint that alleged violations of the Nursing Home Care Act (210 ILCS 45/1-101 et seq. (West 2012)), negligence under the Illinois Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6 (West 2012)), and wrongful death under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act (Act) (740 ILCS 180/1 et seq. (West 2012)). Calkins was not named as a plaintiff. Jim brought the suit individually and as special administrator of the Estate. However, Jim was not special administrator of the estate until March 20, 2014, when the court granted his motion to be appointed special administrator.
[¶5] Jim filed a first amended complaint on June 9, 2014, after he and defendants entered an agreed order to dismiss count I (Nursing Home Care Act violation) without prejudice. The amended complaint did not add Calkins as a plaintiff.
[¶6] On July 17, 2014, defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2012)). In their motion to dismiss, they argued that the appointment of Jim as special administrator of the Estate was void because letters of office for the Estate had already issued for Calkins and thus the court lacked jurisdiction to appoint Jim. On July 23, 2014, the trial court entered an order granting defendants' motion to dismiss and allowing Calkins 14 days to file an amended complaint.
[¶7] On August 8, 2014, Calkins, now as plaintiff, filed a second amended complaint, as special administrator of the Estate.
On August 18, defendants moved to dismiss the second amended complaint on the basis that it was filed after the relevant limitations period had run and did not relate back to the original complaint. On October 17, 2014, the trial court denied defendants' motion to dismiss and ordered that they answer plaintiff's second amended complaint.
[¶8] On October 30, 2014, defendants filed a motion to reconsider or, in the alternative, for leave to file an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308. In their motion, defendants argued that the recently decided case of Pirrello v. Maryville Academy, Inc., 2014 IL App. (1st) 133964, 386 Ill.Dec. 108, 19 N.E.3d 1261, directly applied to this case and supported that plaintiff's second amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint. On December 29, 2014, the trial court denied defendants' motion to reconsider and granted their motion for an interlocutory appeal. On January 8, 2015, the trial court found that the order involved a question of law for which there were substantial grounds for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal would materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. The court certified the following question:
" Whether the relation back doctrine applies when a wrongful death and survival action is timely filed by an improperly appointed special administrator, who was appointed pursuant to the Act despite the fact that letters of office had already issued, pursuant to the Probate Act, to another person who did not bring the ...