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Illinois Neurospine Institute, P.C. v. Carson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

September 21, 2017

ILLINOIS NEUROSPINE INSTITUTE, P.C., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LEON CARSON, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 2016 L 000391 The Honorable Patrick J. Sherlock, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McBride and Ellis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GORDON, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The instant appeal arises from the trial court's grant of defendant Leon Carson's section 2-1401 petition to vacate a default judgment (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2014)) entered against him in a breach of contract lawsuit filed by plaintiff Illinois Neurospine Institute, P.C. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in granting the petition because defendant did not allege due diligence in his petition. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On January 13, 2016, plaintiff filed a breach of contract complaint against defendant, alleging that on November 28, 2011, and continuing thereafter, defendant sought medical care and treatment from plaintiff for injuries that defendant had suffered; the complaint did not detail the type of injuries defendant had suffered or the cause of those injuries. The complaint further alleges that on February 9, 2012, defendant entered into a written agreement with plaintiff whereby defendant agreed to be financially responsible to plaintiff for all professional medical services provided by plaintiff. The complaint alleges that plaintiff had fully performed its obligations under the written agreement, but that, "after applying all credits for payments made by or on behalf of [defendant], " there remained an outstanding balance of $98, 276.78. Accordingly, defendant requested judgment in its favor for $98, 276.78, plus interest and court costs.

         ¶ 4 Attached to the complaint was a document entitled "Financial Responsibility Statement, " which provided that "For and in consideration of services rendered by [plaintiff], patient (responsible person) hereby agrees to and guarantees payment of all charges incurred for the account of the patient." The financial responsibility statement contained defendant's printed name handwritten on the bottom of the statement on the line labeled "Patient Name" and contained a handwritten date of February 9, 2012. There appears to be a space for an additional name, but that space has been whited-out, so it is not clear whose name, if any, appeared there.

         ¶ 5 According to the record on appeal, defendant was personally served with a copy of the summons and complaint on January 27, 2016.

         ¶ 6 The matter was set for a status hearing on March 10, 2016, at which "all parties must be represented by counsel or appear in person and must be prepared to report to the court on the status of the case including the status of discovery." On that date, the trial court entered an order of default against defendant and set the matter for prove-up of damages on April 7, 2016. On April 7, 2016, the trial court continued the prove-up to April 15, 2016. On April 15, 2016, the trial court entered judgment in the amount of $98, 276.78 plus court costs in favor of plaintiff and against defendant.

         ¶ 7 On October 18, 2016, plaintiff filed citations to discover assets directed at both defendant and a law firm.

         ¶ 8 On October 20, 2016, defendant, through the law firm listed in the citation to discover assets, filed a petition to vacate the default judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2014)). The petition contained a "factual overview" section, which provided that on December 21, 2010, defendant slipped and fell while working at a grocery store as a merchandiser for Coca-Cola, which "caused [defendant] to herniate a disc between L5 and S1, requiring a discectomy and fusion." Due to this accident, on February 1, 2011, defendant "filed a complaint[1] against his employer, Coca-Cola[, ] under the Workers' Compensation Act [(820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2010))]." In 2012, defendant filed a third-party personal injury lawsuit against the grocery store and two other defendants.

         ¶ 9 According to the 2-1401 petition, from August 29, 2011, until May 8, 2013, defendant was treated by Dr. Ronald Michael, one of plaintiff's physicians, for his injuries and, on March 24, 2012, underwent a lumbar fusion and discectomy performed by Dr. Michael. Defendant was charged a total of $124, 743.71 in connection with his care and treatment by plaintiff.

         ¶ 10 According to the petition, on February 27, 2014, defendant's workers' compensation claim was settled for $100, 000. Plaintiff and Dr. Michael, "who liened [defendant's] workers' compensation claim, "[2] were paid $27, 003.59 from the settlement. On January 6, 2016, Dr. Michael also asserted a physician's lien in defendant's third-party personal injury lawsuit.

         ¶ 11 According to the petition, on January 13, 2016, "Dr. Michael" filed the complaint in the instant case for breach of contract, alleging that defendant had breached his contract "with Dr. Michael."[3] On April 15, 2016, the trial court entered judgment against defendant and in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $98, 276.78, which was "seemingly the balance of the $124, 743.71 which was offset by the payment of $27, ...


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