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Illinois State Bar Association Mutual Insurance Co. v. Canulli

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

November 1, 2019

ILLINOIS STATE BAR ASSOCIATION MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL D. CANULLI, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 11 CH 5420 12 CH 12834 (cons.) Honorable Peter Flynn, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Michael D. Canulli, of Naperville, appellant pro se.

          Attorneys for Appellee Robert Marc Chemers and Scott L. Howie, of Pretzel & Stouffer Chtrd., of Chicago, for appellee

          JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          CUNNINGHAM JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant-appellant Michael D. Canulli challenges the circuit court of Cook County's entry of judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee Illinois State Bar Association Mutual Insurance Company (ISBA Mutual) in its declaratory judgment action. Finding that Canulli failed to file a timely notice of appeal, we dismiss his appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 ISBA Mutual issued a policy of professional liability insurance to Canulli, an attorney, beginning in June 2009. At some point thereafter, Canulli began representing Maria Freda in her divorce from her husband, Michael Maude. During the course of that litigation, Canulli, on Freda's behalf, filed a third-party complaint against a number of individuals and entities referred to collectively as "Prairie State."

         ¶ 4 On May 12, 2010, Prairie State moved for sanctions against Canulli and Freda, alleging that the suit against it was not well grounded in fact or law and was instead intended solely to harass Prairie State. Canulli requested ISBA Mutual to defend him against the sanctions motion, but ISBA Mutual rejected his tender. In February 2011, ISBA Mutual filed a complaint (case number 11 CH 5420), seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not owe Canulli a duty to defend.

         ¶ 5 Three months later, in May 2011, Freda sued Canulli for malpractice. This time, ISBA Mutual accepted the tender of defense and retained counsel to defend Canulli. However, when Freda later amended her complaint to seek only a reduction in legal fees, ISBA Mutual withdrew its tender and filed a separate declaratory judgment action against Canulli (case number 12 CH 12834), seeking a finding that it owed no duty to defend Canulli against the legal malpractice complaint. Over ISBA Mutual's objection, the two declaratory judgment actions were consolidated.

         ¶ 6 In April 2014, the circuit court ruled on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment in both actions. With respect to the declaratory judgment action regarding the sanctions motion, which ISBA Mutual filed against Canulli, the court found that ISBA Mutual had no duty to defend Canulli against the motion, but the court declined to enter summary judgment in ISBA Mutual's favor in order to allow additional briefing on the issue of whether ISBA Mutual had waived, or was estopped from, denying its duty to defend.

         ¶ 7 Four years later, on April 24, 2018, the circuit court, having been fully briefed, granted ISBA Mutual's motion for summary judgment in its declaratory judgment action against Canulli regarding the sanctions motion.[1] The circuit court declined to reach the issues of waiver and estoppel because, in the intervening years, Prairie State and Canulli had settled the sanctions dispute and Canulli owed nothing in connection with the settlement. Significantly, the court did not enter judgment on ISBA Mutual's declaratory judgment action against Canulli regarding the legal malpractice complaint. Accordingly, in its ruling, the court stated that there was "no reason to delay enforcement of or appeal from (assuming such an appeal is possible)" its judgment in favor of ISBA Mutual with regard to its duty to defend Canulli against the sanctions motion.

         ¶ 8 On November 16, 2018, Canulli moved to reconsider the court's judgment. ISBA Mutual moved to strike his motion as untimely, and on December 17, 2018, the circuit court of Cook County denied Canulli's motion to ...


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