Fifth District says 10-year-old car accident suit belongs in Missouri, not Illinois

Steve Korris Jul. 1, 2010, 9:53am

MOUNT VERNON – Madison County judges kept a car crash lawsuit for 10 years when it always belonged in Missouri, according to Fifth District appeals judges.

On June 17, three Fifth District judges vacated a $28,784 judgment that Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder entered against David Richards of Missouri in 2008.

They ruled that Crowder violated his constitutional due process rights.

In 1998, Richards sold cars for West County Motor in Manchester, Mo.

He took Madison County resident Bruce Higgins for a test drive in a BMW.

Richards turned at high speed, lost control, and plowed into an embankment.

Higgins sued West County Motor and Richards in Madison County in 2000, claiming injury.

West County Motor moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and former circuit judge George Moran granted the motion in 2001.

Richards didn't appear, and Higgins moved for default judgment.

Moran granted it in 2004. and Richards responded with motions to set judgment aside and dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Moran set aside judgment but denied the motion to dismiss.

He granted summary judgment on liability and set trial on damages.

He retired without holding trial, and the case passed to Crowder.

Richards asked her to reconsider the order on jurisdiction, arguing that Moran dismissed West County Motor on the same grounds.

Crowder denied reconsideration in 2007, writing that Richards waived jurisdiction when he filed two motions without specifying a statutory section for each.

Richards petitioned the Fifth District for review, and the Fifth District denied it.

He petitioned the Supreme Court for review, and the Supreme Court denied it.

The case proceeded to trial, and jurors awarded Higgins $28,784.

Both sides appealed, with Higgins seeking a new trial on damages and Richards still challenging jurisdiction.

The Fifth District repudiated the trial it had authorized.

Justice James Wexstten wrote that Higgins never tried to establish a basis for personal jurisdiction and never contested the merits of Richards's contentions.

He wrote that Higgins "was in no way prejudiced by the defendant's failure to separate his combined motion into specific parts."

"The circuit court properly granted West County's motion to dismiss for a lack of personal jurisdiction but basically denied the defendant's request for the same relief because his motion lacked headings," Wexstten wrote.

Michael Clark represented Richards.

Bob Perica represented Higgins.

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