Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 17 L 10764.
Honorable Patrick J. Sherlock, Judge Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE ROCHFORD delivered the judgment of the
court, with opinion. Justices Hoffman and Hall concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
ROCHFORD PRESIDING JUSTICE.
1 Plaintiff, Joanna Tielke, appeals the circuit court's
order dismissing her breach of contract action against Auto
Owners Insurance Company ("Auto Owners"), Leahy
Eisenberg & Fraenkel Ltd. ("LEF"), Manor
Bowling and Billiard, Inc. ("Manor Bowling"), Kevin
Killerman, 3124 North Central, LLC ("North
Central") and Tara Ryniec-Stanek, because it constituted
an improper collateral attack on a judgment order in another
case. We affirm.
2 The two cases involved here are: (1) a personal injury
action filed by plaintiff against defendants North Central,
Mr. Killerman, and Manor Bowling in case no. 2013 L 011557;
and (2) a subsequent breach of contract action filed by
plaintiff against defendants North Central, Mr. Killerman,
Manor Bowling, Ms. Ryniec-Stanek, LEF, and Auto Owners in
case no. 17 L 10764 and assigned to Judge Patrick J.
3 I. THE PERSONAL INJURY ACTION (CASE NO. 2013 L 011557)
4 On September 18, 2017, plaintiff filed a fifth amended
complaint (hereinafter "personal injury action")
against defendants North Central, Kevin Killerman, and Manor
Bowling alleging that their negligence caused her to slip,
fall, and injure herself on February 16, 2013, at a bowling
alley under defendants' control. In the personal injury
action, defendants were represented by Tara Ryniec-Stanek and
her law firm, LEF. Auto Owners was the liability insurer for
5 On September 26, 2017, Ms. Ryniec-Stanek, on behalf of all
defendants, and in open court, engaged in settlement
negotiations with plaintiff and made a settlement offer of
$700, 000, with the proceeds to be hand-delivered by Friday,
September 29, 2017. No settlement was reached on September
26, 2017, but that night Ms. Ryniec-Stanek sent a text to
plaintiff confirming that she had spoken with Auto Owners and
that the $700, 000 settlement offer was still open and
available. Ms. Ryniec-Stanek stated that if plaintiff
accepted the settlement offer, the check would be delivered
6 The next day, September 27, 2017, at the break in the
testimony of Mr. Killerman, plaintiff spoke with Ms.
Ryniec-Stanek and orally accepted the settlement offer.
Plaintiff further confirmed the acceptance via a text message
sent to Ms. Ryniec-Stanek and asked that the check be
delivered on Friday, September 29. About 15 minutes later,
right before the reconvening of court, Ms. Ryniec-Stanek
returned a text stating, "Sorry offer was withdrawn. We
will proceed." Plaintiff demanded that the settlement
agreement be honored, but Ms. Ryniec-Stanek refused.
7 Plaintiff brought the matter before the trial court, who
"So the defense is giving you two bites at the apple. So
I can't do anything here. The method for you to do this,
after trial, if you get a verdict less than the accepted
offer, you file a breach of contract lawsuit."
8 The trial court further stated: "So I encourage you to
do what you need to do to protect your rights. The only thing
for me to do is to proceed with trial. *** I'm denying
[plaintiff] any relief."
9 The trial proceeded, and on October 2, 2017, the jury
returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against
defendant Manor Bowling in the amount of $332, 425. The jury
found that defendants Kevin Killerman and North Central were
not liable. The trial court entered judgment on the verdict
and later awarded plaintiff certain costs that she was
entitled to recover as the prevailing party at trial.
10 Two days later, on October 4, 2017, plaintiff made a
written demand that Auto Owners tender the full amount of the
$700, 000 settlement agreement. In response, Ms.
Ryniec-Stanek wrote a letter to plaintiff on October 6, 2017,
denying that a settlement had been reached before the offer
was withdrawn. Ms. Ryniec-Stanek stated:
"We disagree with your representations and no settlement
was effectuated. Our settlement offer was withdrawn, and your
actions, including continuing to prosecute your case and
presenting new demands, confirm this."
11 Ms. Ryniec-Stanek further stated that Auto Owners had
prepared a check for $332, 425 in satisfaction of the
judgment on the verdict.
12 On October 16, 2017, the defendants in the personal injury
action filed a motion to "enforce full satisfaction of
[the] verdict and judgment." Defendants alleged that
"[t]o date, plaintiffs counsel has refused to accept the
tender of the verdict check and post-judgment interest in
full satisfaction of the jury's verdict and judgment
entered in favor of the plaintiff, Joanna Tielke, and against
the defendant, [Manor Bowling]."
13 On October 27, 2017, plaintiff accepted the check. In
correspondence with defendants, plaintiff indicated that she
was accepting the check as payment of the jury verdict only,
and not as full payment of the amount owed to her under the
settlement agreement. Plaintiff stated that she was still
owed the difference between the ...