23 Order Filed: May 10, 2018
from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 15-L-301,
Honorable Vincent J. Lopinot, Judge, presiding.
Attorney for Appellant Dedra M. Moore, East St. Louis.
Attorneys for Appellee Michelle M. Rich, Kristina D. Cooksey,
Thomas C. Rich.
OVERSTREET JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Welch and Moore concurred in the judgment
Honorable David K. Overstreet, J. Justices.
1 The plaintiff, Michelle Pickens, filed a complaint against
the defendant, Aahmes Temple #13, LLC, alleging that she
suffered injuries due to the defendant's negligence when
she slipped and fell at the defendant's facility. When
the defendant failed to file an appearance or an answer, the
circuit court entered a default judgment in favor of the
plaintiff, awarding the plaintiff $42, 837.63 in damages.
Nine months later, the defendant filed a motion to quash
service and set aside the default judgment, arguing that the
default judgment was void because the plaintiff never served
it with process. The circuit court denied the motion, and the
defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.
3 The defendant is an Illinois limited liability company that
operates a nightclub facility in East St. Louis, Illinois, at
which its members and guests socialize at various functions.
On May 21, 2015, the plaintiff filed a one-count complaint
against the defendant alleging that she sustained injuries at
the defendant's facility because of the defendant's
negligence when she slipped on a substance on the floor. At
the time the plaintiff filed her lawsuit, the defendant's
articles of organization filed with the Secretary of State
designated its registered agent as an individual named
"Jesse Gurley" and established the company's
registered office at "104 Fletcher St., Collinsville, IL
62234" (registered office).
4 The plaintiff employed Kenneth Bouas of Bi-State
Investigative Services, Inc., to serve the summons and
complaint upon the defendant's registered agent. Unknown
to the plaintiff, her attorney, and Bouas, however, the
defendant's registered office was a home in which three
individuals named "Jesse Gurley" had lived at
various times: Jesse Gurley III, Jesse Gurley IV, and Jesse
Gurley V. The defendant intended that its registered agent
was to be Gurley IV, but the defendant's designation of
its registered agent did not include a suffix to distinguish
which of the Jesse Gurleys located at its registered office
was its registered agent.
5 Gurley III is Gurley IV's father, had lived at the
location of the defendant's registered office for over 30
years, and had no affiliation with the defendant. Gurley V is
Gurley IV's son and also lived at the location of the
defendant's registered office but had no association with
the defendant. In addition, at the time the plaintiff filed
her complaint, Gurley IV no longer resided or conducted any
business on behalf of the defendant at the defendant's
6 On July 24, 2015, Bouas filed a "process service
affidavit" in which he certified that, on June 8, 2015,
he served the summons and complaint on a "Jesse
Gurley" at the defendant's registered office. He
identified the "Jesse Gurley" he served as being a
black male approximately 65 years old. Bouas's affidavit
included a line for identifying the name of the person to be
served that stated, "Aahmes Temple #132, LLC a Corp.
care of Jesse Gurley." The affidavit form provided check
boxes for "service type" that included, among other
options, a check box for "personal" service and a
check box for "corporation" service. Bouas
mistakenly checked the box next to "personal" as
the service type he completed.
7 According to Bouas, when he served the summons and
complaint, he knocked on the door of a residence that was
located at the address of the defendant's registered
office and a person answered the door. Bouas asked for
"Jesse Gurley, " and the person answering the door
said, "I'm Jesse Gurley." Bouas identified
himself as a process sever and told the person answering the
door that he had a summons from the St. Clair County court.
He read the caption of the complaint and stated that the
papers were for "registered agent, Jesse Gurley."
8 According to Bouas, the person who answered the door and
identified himself as Jesse Gurley, accepted the service of
the summons and complaint, and did not indicate that he was
the incorrect person or that he did not understand what was
presented to him. The person who accepted the service of
process was Gurley III.
9 No one entered an appearance or answered the complaint on
behalf of the defendant after Bouas served the summons on
Gurley III. On September 1, 2015, the plaintiff sent a
certified letter addressed to "Jesse Gurley" at the
address of the defendant's registered office. The purpose
of this letter was to advise the defendant, through its
registered agent, that more than 30 days had elapsed since
the service of the summons and complaint and that no one had
entered an appearance or answered the complaint on behalf of
the defendant. The letter included a file-stamped copy of the
complaint and Bouas's affidavit of service of the
complaint and summons. Gurley III received and signed for
this letter on September 5, 2015. Again, no one took action
on behalf of the defendant after Gurley III signed for this
10 On December 14, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion for a
default judgment. The plaintiff also sent a copy of the
motion and notice of hearing on the motion by certified mail
to the defendant c/o "Jesse Gurley" at the
registered office. The letter included another copy of the
complaint as well as the plaintiff's medical bills that
she intended to present as part of her proof of damages. The
record indicates that the person who signed for this
certified mail signed the receipt as "Jesse Gurley"
with an illegible suffix that could be III or IV. According
to Gurley IV, the signature is not his. In addition, he did
not recognize the signature but believed that Gurley III
signed for the letter but never gave it to him. Gurley III,
however, stated that the signature was not his and denied
signing for this letter.
11 On January 12, 2016, the plaintiff sent another certified
letter to the defendant c/o "Jesse Gurley" at the
registered office, again attempting to notify the defendant
of the complaint and proof of service and that she would be
seeking a default judgment on January 19, 2016. The letter
included exhibits that the plaintiff stated she would present
at the hearing. Gurley III signed for this letter on January
14, 2016. Again, no one appeared or answered the complaint on
behalf of the defendant.
12 On January 19, 2016, the plaintiff appeared in court for a
hearing on her motion for a default judgment. The defendant
failed to appear. The circuit court entered an order granting
the plaintiff's motion for a default judgment on the
issue of liability. On January 27, 2016, the plaintiff
attempted to send a copy of the default order to the
defendant by certified mail addressed to the defendant c/o
"Jesse Gurley" at the address of the
defendant's registered office. The letter included notice
that the plaintiff intended to appear in court on March 15,
2016, to establish her damages. Gurley IV's mother,
Earline, who also lived at the address, signed for the
certified letter on January 30, 2016. Again, no one appeared
on behalf of the defendant.
13 On March 18, 2016, the defendant filed a statement with
the Secretary of State to indicate a change of its registered
agent. In this document, the defendant designated Suskin
Lockett as its registered agent, rather than Jesse Gurley,
and listed a new address for its registered office.
14 On March 23, 2016, the plaintiff sent a letter to the
clerk of the circuit court with a proposed order concerning
the default judgment and sent a copy of the letter and
proposed order to the defendant c/o Jesse Gurley at the
defendant's previous registered office (Gurley III's
home). Earline signed for this letter. On April 1, 2016, the
plaintiff appeared in court to prove her damages. The circuit
court entered a default judgment against the defendant,
awarding her $42, 837.63 in damages.
15 On July 25, 2016, the plaintiff filed a citation to
discover assets. On September 27, 2016, Bouas attempted to
serve the citation to discover assets on the defendant c/o
"Jesse Gurley" at Gurley III's home. This time
Earline spoke with Bouas and informed him that the Jesse
Gurley he needed to speak to was Gurley IV who had moved to
16 On October 1, 2016, Bouas served the citation to discover
assets on Gurley IV at 2740 Lake Lauren Drive, Shiloh,
Illinois. In his affidavit, Bouas attested that he served
"Jesse Gurley, " a black male with an approximate
age of 45. With respect to the type of service, Bouas checked
the boxes for personal and corporation. Once served with
these documents, Gurley IV gave the documents to a person who
was affiliated with the defendant. The defendant then
retained counsel and, on October 17, 2016, ...