The Illinois Supreme Court late last month refused to hear appeals in more than a dozen Fifth District cases.
While the majority of those cases were criminal in nature, a handful of the denied petitions for leave to appeal came from civil matters, including suits alleging personal injury, negligence and sexual harassment.
In denying a petition for leave to appeal in Vickey Metz, etc. v. Rosewood Care Center, Inc., etc., et al., the high court refused to disturb the Fifth District’s reversal of Madison County Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian’s decision to grant the plaintiff a new trial.
Vickey Metz sued Rosewood Care Center and HSM Management Services as the special administrator and representative of her mother, Blanche Rexing, who briefly stayed at the Edwardsville nursing home before dying in August 2005 at age 86.
She accused Rosewood of being negligent in administering medication to her mother and HSM of being negligent for failing to implement policies and procedures for the administration of meds at Rosewood.
Metz’s suit also included claims alleging wrongful death, willful and wanton conduct and a violation of the Nursing Home Care Act, as well as one dealing with the hiring of the nurse who administered medication to her mother.
According to the appellate court’s Dec. 31 unpublished order in the case, Metz asked the jury during closing arguments for a verdict in excess of $15 million.
Defense counsel, the order states, said in closing that the “Lakin Law Firm was seeking ‘jackpot justice’ by asking for over $15 million for the loss of an 86-year-old woman who died from natural causes.”
Metz argued that a new trial was warranted based on the “jackpot justice” comment and Matoesian agreed. On appeal, the defendants argued that that a new trial was not necessary because defense counsel’s statements did not deprive Metz of a fair trial.
The Fifth District initially denied the defendants’ petition for leave to appeal, but granted it after the Supreme Court directed it to do so in a 2009 supervisory order.
After hearing arguments, a unanimous panel of the appellate court late last year reversed the lower court, determining that Matoesian had abused his discretion when he granted Metz a new trial.
The Supreme Court’s recent denial of the petition for leave to appeal leaves the appellate court ruling in place.
Wood River attorney Brad Lakin represented Metz and East St. Louis attorney Kevin Hoerner provided defense at the trial court level.
The Supreme Court also denied six petitions for leave to appeal in the Madison County case of Elizabeth J. Watkins, et al., v. Alvin P. Steiner.
This case stems from lawsuits Elizabeth Watkins and five other women -- Jamie Miener, Melanie Hedlund, Laura Barry, Tara Reding and Ailie Ritchie – filed against former Saline Township Supervisor Alvin Steiner.
They accused Steiner, who resigned from his post in 2009, of sexually harassing them when they applied for general assistance. They also sued the township, claiming that it contributed to Steiner’s misconduct by failing to properly supervise him.
The township sought dismissal of the suits, contending that the women failed to state a cause of action under Section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure.
Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth agreed and in 2011, dismissed all counts against it. The Fifth District affirmed Ruth’s ruling in a January unpublished order. Steiner had settled the claims against him and was not party to the appeal.
Wood River attorneys Thomas and Peter Maag represented the plaintiffs at the trial court level. Naperville attorney Lori Vanderlaan and others represented the township.
The high court also denied a petition for leave to appeal in the St. Clair County personal injury case of Lawrence Schott et al., v. Halloran Construction Company, Inc.
Plaintiffs Lawrence and Rochella Schott sued Mark Halloran and his construction company in 2010, seeking damages for injuries Lawrence Schott sustained when he fell off a retaining wall in the course of his job as a Swansea police officer.
They claimed that the defendants were negligent in failing to build a guardrail or barrier to prevent people from falling off the wall when it was built in 1990 and repaired in 1994.
Following trial, a jury returned a verdict against Halloran Construction and in favor of the plaintiffs, as well as Halloran as an individual.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien then entered a judgment on the jury’s verdict after a second jury trial took place on the amount of damages.
On appeal, the defendants argued that the suit was barred because the wall repair did not constitute “construction of an improvement to real property” under the statute of repose set out in section 13-214 (b) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure.
Based on the statue of repose, a split panel of the Fifth District Appellate Court reversed LeChien’s ruling.
St. Louis attorneys James Leritz and Kelly Kirkbride represented the defendants and Belleville attorneys Kenneth Burke and Tom Keefe, Jr. represented the Schotts.
Besides these petitions, the Supreme Court last month denied more than 200 petitions for leave to appeal.
On the flip side, the justices allowed 14 petitions for leave to appeal, including a First District case over the pension benefits of Jon Burge, a former Chicago police commander who was convicted of lying in a civil suit about alleged police torture.
The court also allowed petitions for leave to appeal in two Fifth District cases: People v. Terris E. Stahl, a criminal case originating in St. Clair County, and Roy Dean Rogers II et al., etc., v. Gani Imeri, Indv., etc., a civil suit from Effingham County.