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Ashley v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 23, 2015

CATHERINE ASHLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., and SHAUN CHRISTOPER JACKSON, Defendants. JOSEPH MALY, Plaintiff,
v.
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., and SHAUN CHRISTOPER JACKSON, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Third-Party Defendant Joseph Maly's motion for good faith finding [126], concluding that Joseph Maly's settlement with Plaintiff Catherine Ashley, as administrator of the Estate of Amber Adams, was made in good faith. Accordingly, Defendants' third-party complaint for contribution against Third-Party Defendant Joseph Maly [67] is stricken in its entirety pursuant to ยง 2(d) of the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act. Joseph Maly's motion for summary judgment [136] is denied as moot.

Also before the Court is Defendants' motion for leave to file a third-party complaint for punitive damages against Nicholas Maly [119], which the Court denies. Defendants' motion to adjudicate pending motions [154] is denied as moot in light of this order.

I. Background

On October 16, 2012, Plaintiff Catherine Ashley, as administrator of the Estate of Amber Adams, filed a complaint against Defendants Schneider National Carriers, Inc. and Shaun Christopher Jackson, arising out of a fatal injury that Amber Adams sustained in an auto accident on April 7, 2012. The complaint alleges that on April 7, 2012, a vehicle operated by Defendant Jackson was forced to pull over to the right shoulder of Northbound I-355, where it was struck by a vehicle driven by Nicholas Maly. Amber Adams, a passenger in the car driven by Nicholas Maly, was killed in the accident. Nicholas Maly and his father, Joseph Maly (who was also in the vehicle at the time of the accident) survived the crash.

A. Joseph Maly's Settlement with Catherine Ashley

Catherine Ashley did not sue Joseph Maly. Instead, Ms. Ashley reached a settlement with Joseph Maly whereby he agreed to pay her $100, 000.00 in exchange for her releasing all claims against him.[1] Joseph Maly now asks the Court to enter an order finding that the settlement agreement that he entered into with Ms. Ashley was fair, reasonable, and made in good faith pursuant to the Illinois Contribution Act, 740 ILCS 100/0.01, et seq.

The Court notes that Nicholas Maly filed a nearly identical motion[2] for good faith finding [96] relating to his settlement with his father, Joseph Maly. Defendants opposed that motion [108], but the Court ultimately granted the motion and issued a good faith finding [118]. The present motion follows the same general format, but relates to Joseph Maly's settlement agreement with the Estate of Amber Adams. Defendants did not file a brief in opposition to Joseph Maly's motion, despite the Court's invitation to do so. [See 128.]

B. Joseph Maly's Motion for Summary Judgment

On April 23, 2013, Joseph Maly filed his own lawsuit against Defendants arising out of the injuries that he sustained during the collision (Case No. 13-cv-3042). The Maly and Ashley cases were consolidated before this Court. Defendants then sought leave to file a third-party complaint against Joseph Maly seeking contribution for any damages that they may be obligated to pay Plaintiff Catherine Ashley as administrator of the Estate of Amber Adams. The Court granted Defendants' motion [66], and Defendants filed their third-party complaint for contribution against Mr. Maly [67].[3] One of the motions currently before the Court is Third-Party Defendant Joseph Maly's motion for summary judgment [135] regarding Defendants' contribution claims.

C. Defendants' Pursuit of Punitive Damages Against Nicholas Maly

Nicholas Maly has reached independent settlements with both the Estate of Amber Adams and with his father, Joseph Maly, and both settlements have been deemed to be in good faith. [See 119-3 (re Estate of Amber Adams settlement, Probate Court order); 118 (re Joseph Maly settlement)]. In between these two settlements, Defendants filed a third-party complaint against Nicholas Maly [70], alleging that he was solely responsible for the crash and seeking contribution from him for any damages that Defendants might incur based on their potential liability to Joseph Maly. Understandably, Defendants did not seek contribution from Nicholas Maly for their potential liability to the Estate of Amber Adams because Nicholas Maly's settlement with Amber Adams had already been deemed in good faith, thus barring Defendants from seeking contribution for any such liabilities. But eight months after Defendants filed their third-party complaint against Nicholas Maly, the Court concluded that Nicholas Maly's settlement with his father was also in good faith [118], thus barring Defendants' pending third-party contribution claims against Nicholas Maly [70].

Defendants-cognizant of the impact of Nicholas Maly's good faith settlements with Amber Adams' Estate and with his father-nonetheless seek to file a third-party complaint for "punitive damages" against Nicholas Maly, arguing that he "proximately caused the injuries of Amber Adams." [See 119 (Motion); 121 (Proposed Complaint).] As the basis for their punitive damages claim, Defendants allege that Nicholas Maly lost control of his vehicle because he was driving substantially over the speed limit and making dangerous maneuvers on the highway. Defendants cite to witness testimony explaining that Nicholas Maly cut across multiple lanes of traffic at speeds well above the speed limit, and the black box taken from the vehicle showed that six seconds prior to the collision he was traveling at 94 mph. Defendants also highlight a number of traffic ...


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