SPRINGFIELD – Bi-State Development Agency commissioners anxiously wait for the Illinois Supreme Court to decide whether the agency enjoys the same protections from personal injury claims as cities and counties.
In the case before the Court, plaintiff Brian Hubble pleads for a two year statute of limitations while Bi-State pleads for one year.
The Justices heard oral argument in May, and took it under advisement.
Hubble sued Bi-State in St. Clair County circuit court in March 2007, claiming injuries from a collision with a bus in September 2005.
Bi-State moved to dismiss, arguing that a one year limit in the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act had run out.
The act had protected Bi-State since 1986, when Fifth Circuit appeals judges in Mount Vernon defined the agency as a local public entity.
In that case, Grady v. Bi-State, the agency submitted incorrect statements about its creation and authority to the appeals court.
Though the judges ruled for Bi-State, they did not rely on the incorrect statements.
In the current case, Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto wiped out the Grady precedent.
Cueto branded the statements as deliberate lies. He loaded the entire Grady record into the Hubble record.
"Grady, a decision procured by fraud, should be accorded the weight it deserves, none," Cueto wrote.
Bi-State moved for findings so it could appeal, and Cueto denied the motion.
He changed his mind, after the Illinois Supreme Court made him change it.
Upon receiving a rare supervisory order from the Justices, Cueto certified to the Fifth District the question of whether Bi-State was a local public entity.
Last year, two of three Fifth District judges abandoned the Grady precedent.
Justices Bruce Stewart and Melissa Chapman reached the same result as Cueto, though they declared him out of bounds in accusing Bi-State of past fraud.
"A circuit court does not have authority to collaterally attack controlling appellate court case authority or its precedential value by independently reviewing the underlying appellate court file and scrutinizing the winning parties' arguments," Stewart wrote.
"Grady was binding authority, and a circuit court was not free to disregard it," he wrote.
Stewart and Chapman were free to disregard it, and they did.
"We hold that the Legislature did not intend to include interstate compact agencies within the Tort Immunity Act's definition of a local public entity," Stewart wrote.
"We cannot overrule Grady but we disagree with the Grady court's analysis, and we decline to follow it," Stewart wrote.
He wrote that the doctrine of stare decisis, meaning a decision stands, should not preclude judges from correcting a mistake.
He wrote that an earlier opinion of a different panel did not bind the current panel.
"We may deviate from our own precedent when we have good cause, such as when the governing decision is badly reasoned," he wrote.
"Illinois and Missouri each gave up a portion of its sovereignty by entering into the compact agreement," he wrote.
Dissenting Justice Stephen Spomer wrote that Stewart and Chapman compounded Cueto's error.
"The majority's analysis falls far short of explaining why the settled rule of law in this case should be overturned," Spomer wrote.
He quoted a federal appeals court decision finding Bi-State much like a county.
He wrote that the status to be afforded Bi-State was outside the scope of the contract between Illinois and Missouri.
Bruce Cook of Belleville represents Hubble.
Donald O'Keefe of St. Louis represents Bi-State.
Neither side has filed any motion since oral argument.