Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, as Subrogee of Joanna Potepa, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JUAN TRUJILLO, Defendant-Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 16 M1 014547 The
Honorable Deborah J. Gubin, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Burke and Justice McBride
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 The instant appeal arises from a lawsuit filed by
plaintiff, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, as
subrogee of Joanna Potepa, against defendant, Juan Trujillo,
for damages resulting from an automobile collision. The
matter was submitted for mandatory arbitration, and while
defendant was represented by counsel at the arbitration,
defendant himself was not present during the arbitration. The
arbitrators entered an award in favor of plaintiff, and
defendant rejected the award. Plaintiff filed a motion to bar
defendant from rejecting the award as a sanction for his
absence from the arbitration, which was granted. Defendant
filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied.
Defendant now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in
granting plaintiff's motion and in denying his motion to
reconsider. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial
3 On October 4, 2016, plaintiff filed a complaint against
defendant, alleging negligence with respect to an automobile
collision that occurred on June 29, 2015, and seeking $12,
365.74 in damages. On November 7, 2016, defendant, through
counsel, filed an appearance and answer.
4 On November 28, 2016, plaintiff filed a "Notice to
Produce at Trial and Arbitration" pursuant to Illinois
Supreme Court Rule 213(e) (eff. Jan. 1, 2007), Rule 237 (eff.
July 1, 2005), and Rule 90(f), (g) (eff. July 1, 2008), in
which plaintiff requested, inter alia, that
defendant produce himself "at the commencement of the
case in chief of Plaintiff at the arbitration and trial of
5 On December 5, 2016, the trial court assigned the case to
mandatory arbitration. On March 1, 2017, the case was set for
an arbitration hearing on May 15, 2017. The notice setting
the case for arbitration noted that "failure to appear
shall constitute a waiver of the right to reject the award
pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 91." Defendant never
notified the trial court or counsel concerning
defendant's unavailability to appear at the arbitration
6 The arbitration occurred on May 15, 2017, and the
arbitration panel found in favor of plaintiff and against
defendant in the amount of $8656.02. The arbitration award
noted that "[a]ll parties participated in good
faith," but also included a finding that "a 237 was
filed as [to] [defendant], who was only represented by [his]
attorney." On June 13, 2017, defendant filed a notice of
rejection of the arbitration award and requested a trial.
7 On June 21, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to bar defendant
from rejecting the arbitration award, claiming that defendant
did not appear at the arbitration after having been called as
a witness by plaintiff and having been served a notice to
produce himself at the arbitration. Plaintiff argued that
barring the rejection of the award was an appropriate
sanction for defendant's failure to appear.
8 On July 27, 2017, defendant filed a response to the motion
to bar rejection of the award, in which he argued that the
court had discretion over whether to debar a party from
rejecting the award and may instead order another arbitration
or set a trial date. Defendant argued that plaintiff's
motion made no reference to prejudice suffered and that, in
fact, plaintiff had not suffered any prejudice given that an
arbitration award was entered in its favor. Defendant further
argued that all parties involved were represented by an
attorney and actively participated "as evidenced by the
arbitration award in favor of Plaintiff." Defendant also
claimed that "[p]laintiff has presented no evidence of
any willful violation or showing of a deliberate
disregard for the arbitration process[;] in fact,
Defendants' [sic] counsel appeared and fully
participated in the hearing of May 15, 2017." (Emphases
in original.) Accordingly, defendant requested that
plaintiff's motion be denied and that defendant be
permitted to reject the arbitration award. We note that
defendant did not provide the reason for his absence in his
9 On August 14, 2017, the trial court entered an order
granting plaintiff's motion to bar. On the same day, the
trial court entered judgment on the arbitration award.
10 On September 13, 2017, defendant filed a motion to
reconsider. In support of his motion, ...