ROSCOE GILES, as Special Representative and Special Administrator of the Estate of Morris Giles, Plaintiff-Appellant,
ROBERT PARKS, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Law Division No. 14 L
13240 Honorable Janet Adams Brosnahan, Judge Presiding
JUSTICE SIMON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Pierce and Justice Harris
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 This case proves to be yet another reminder to attorneys
and litigants about the importance of complying with statutes
of limitations and that the proper application of a
limitations period may produce results that seem harsh or
undesirable. Plaintiff, whose brother was killed, filed his
case just a single day after the statute of limitations had
run. On appeal, plaintiff attempts to use the decedent's
legal disability as an excuse for his own untimely filing.
The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure does not permit the
statutes to be used in the manner that plaintiff advocates
and, accordingly, we affirm the denial of plaintiff's
petition for relief from the judgment.
3 On December 22, 2012, plaintiff's decedent, Morris
Giles, was walking through a crosswalk when he was struck by
defendant's tow truck. Giles was unresponsive and
unconscious from the time of the collision until he died the
next day at the hospital, on December 23, 2012.
4 Giles's brother, plaintiff Roscoe Giles, retained an
attorney to sue defendant. Exactly two years after Giles died
and two years and a day after the collision, this case was
filed in Cook County circuit court. The complaint had a
single claim that plaintiff characterizes as a survival
claim, and the statute of limitations for the asserted cause
of action is two years.
5 Before the limitations issue was litigated or before there
was any other meaningful activity in the case, the case was
dismissed for want of prosecution. Plaintiff eventually hired
new counsel and filed a petition for relief from the judgment
under section 2-1401 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure
(see 735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2012)). That petition was filed
on March 15, 2016.
6 In his petition for relief from the judgment, plaintiff
presented evidence that his original attorney had a minor
stroke in October 2015 and was no longer authorized to
practice law by the time the petition was presented to the
court. After some back and forth between the parties, it
became apparent that there was a real issue as to whether
plaintiff acted with diligence in prosecuting his original
claim, with the ultimate question being whether the claim was
barred by the statute of limitations at the time it was
7 Defendant took the position that the case was filed more
than two years after the cause of action accrued. Plaintiff
took the position that the claim was timely because Giles was
under a legal disability from the time he was struck until he
died the next day, so the statute of limitations was tolled
for a day and the claim was, therefore, timely. Plaintiff
also sought leave to file a claim under the wrongful death
statute where the statute of limitations accrues at the time
of the death rather than at the time of the injury. Plaintiff
argued that his newly asserted wrongful death claim should be
considered to "relate back" to the date the
complaint was filed because the claim arises from the same
transaction or occurrence as his original claim.
8 The trial court held a hearing but had the parties focus on
addressing the propriety of plaintiff's arguments on the
legal disability issue and on the applicability of the
relation back doctrine. The trial court issued a detailed and
well-reasoned written order explaining its holding that (1)
any legal disability did not toll the statute of limitations,
so the originally filed claim was time barred, and (2) the
new claim plaintiff wanted to assert could not relate back to
an untimely filed original pleading.
10 To begin, plaintiff essentially concedes that without the
aid of a separate justifying statute, the cause of action he
asserts in his complaint is barred by the two-year statute of
limitations (735 ILCS 5/13-202 (West 2012)). Plaintiff admits
that Giles was injured traumatically on December 22, 2012,
and that the case was not filed until December 23, 2014.
11 Actions for damages for an injury to the person shall be
commenced within two years of when the cause of action
accrues. Id. Where the plaintiff's injury is
caused by a " 'sudden traumatic event, ' "
the cause of action accrues immediately, and the statute of
limitations begins to run on the day ...