from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 14-LA-179
Honorable Thomas A. Meyer, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Burke concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Terence Knott, appeals from an order of the
circuit court of McHenry County granting defendant, Woodstock
Farm & Fleet, doing business as Blain's Farm &
Fleet, summary judgment, based on the doctrine of judicial
estoppel. Because the trial court improperly applied the
doctrine of judicial estoppel, we reverse and remand.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 On June 11, 2014, plaintiff filed a three-count complaint
alleging premises liability, negligence, and spoliation of
evidence arising out of an April 7, 2013, accident that
occurred at defendant's store.
4 Prior to the commencement of plaintiff's action in the
circuit court of McHenry County, plaintiff and his wife
(represented by Geraci Law L.L.C. (Geraci)) filed a voluntary
petition for chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 8, 2013. See 11
U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (2012). On schedule B,
pertaining to personal property, plaintiff stated that he had
no "[o]ther contingent and unliquidated claims of any
nature" and that he had no "other property of any
kind not already listed." Plaintiff listed assets of
$196, 250 and liabilities of $306, 301.
5 On August 9, 2013, the bankruptcy trustee, James E.
Stevens, issued a "Report of Distribution, "
reporting that "there is no property available for
distribution from the estate over and above that exempted by
6 On October 29, 2013, plaintiff filed amended schedules B
and C. On schedule B, regarding "[o]ther contingent and
unliquidated claims of any nature, " plaintiff listed
"[p]ossible claim versus" and stated that the
"[c]urrent value" was "unknown." On
schedule C, regarding exemptions for "[o]ther contingent
and unliquidated claims of any nature, " plaintiff
listed "[p]ossible claim versus" and stated its
value at $15, 000, citing section 12-1001(h)(4) of the Code
of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/12-1001(h)(4) (West
2012) (providing an exemption for a debtor to receive payment
not to exceed $15, 000 on account of personal bodily injury
of the debtor)). Plaintiff declared under the penalty of
perjury that the schedules were accurate.
7 On November 29, 2013, plaintiff's counsel in the
instant action sent a letter to defendant, advising that
counsel had been retained to represent plaintiff "in
[sic] claim for damages as a result of injuries he
sustained after a skid of merchandise was pushed into him on
April 7, 2013, in Woodstock, Illinois." Counsel's
letter advised defendant of counsel's lien and to
preserve any and all evidence relating to "the above
individual and occurrence."
8 On January 7, 2014, the bankruptcy court entered an order
of discharge of plaintiff's debts.
9 On June 11, 2014, plaintiff filed a three-count complaint
against defendant, alleging that, on April 7, 2013, plaintiff
was a customer at defendant's store when another customer
drove a motorized cart into a display of pizza ovens,
knocking them over onto plaintiff, causing an injury to
plaintiff's knee. Count I alleged liability on the basis
of "Premises Liability, " count II alleged
liability on the basis of "Negligence, " and count
III alleged liability on the basis of "Spoliation of
Evidence." Plaintiff sought damages in excess of $50,
000 for each count.
10 On June 15, 2015, defendant filed a motion for summary
judgment, contending, in part, that plaintiff should be
judicially estopped because he failed to sufficiently report
his personal injury claim in his bankruptcy case and, in the
alternative, that plaintiff had no standing to pursue this
claim because any claim belongs to the bankruptcy estate and
must be brought by the trustee.
11 Plaintiff responded that there were genuine issues of
material fact precluding summary judgment and that judicial
estoppel did not apply because he did not intentionally fail
to disclose his personal injury ...