Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal with Prejudice in Work Injury Civil Claim

There are countless procedural rules that must be followed when asserting a claim for injuries. Although certain legal matters from your past may not seem like they have a bearing on your current claim, disclosing them or providing information related to those prior claims may be essential. As dedicated Chicago personal injury lawyers, we have assisted many accident victims with ensuring that they follow all of the applicable procedural rules so that they don’t jeopardize their right to recovery.

A recent appellate case demonstrates how complicated this issue can be. The facts of the underlying case are as follows. The plaintiff sustained injuries in 2010 when he slipped and fell down a stairwell while at work. He worked as a patrolman, which required him to frequent various places on his assigned station, including what he described in his complaint as a negligently maintained stairwell. The plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim against his employer and was awarded benefits.

In 2012, the plaintiff filed a civil complaint against the defendants, alleging that they owned, operated, and maintained the premises in a negligent manner. The plaintiff sought compensation for his injuries, and his wife filed a claim for loss of consortium. Six months before filing the personal injury action, the plaintiff had filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. Among the disclosures filed with the bankruptcy, the plaintiffs signed a document listing the workers’ compensation claim as an asset. During a hearing about their assets, the plaintiffs testified about the workers’ compensation claim. Two months before filing the civil lawsuit, the plaintiffs received a discharge in the bankruptcy proceeding, and the case was closed.

During the plaintiff’s deposition, he testified about two personal injury actions that he had filed in the past regarding unrelated situations. He also testified that neither he nor his wife disclosed the current civil lawsuit in the bankruptcy proceeding. After the deposition, the defendants filed an emergency motion to dismiss the action, based on standing and judicial estoppel. The plaintiff then filed a motion to reopen the bankruptcy proceeding so that the plaintiffs could amend their schedules to include the pending civil claim, claiming that their failure to list the civil claim was an honest mistake. The bankruptcy court granted the plaintiff’s motion and reopened the bankruptcy claim.

The civil claim was stayed in the meantime. After several motions regarding the plaintiffs’ failure to disclose the civil claim, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss with prejudice. The parties appealed. On review, the appellate court concluded that the lower court erred in concluding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claim and that judicial estoppel precluded them from asserting a civil claim against the defendants. Regarding standing, the appellate court noted that the bankruptcy trustee abandoned the personal injury claim during the reopening and that standing for the claim reverted to the plaintiffs thereafter. Regarding the judicial estoppel claim, the court concluded that the lower court erred in applying it to the present case. It found no evidence in the record that the plaintiffs intended to deceive or mislead the bankruptcy court in failing to list the civil claim among their assets in the bankruptcy proceeding. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the order dismissing the plaintiffs’ civil claim with prejudice.

If you have been injured as a result of another person’s carelessness, it is imperative that you consult a dedicated Illinois trial lawyer today to ensure that you preserve your rights and obtain the maximum amount of recovery that you are entitled to receive. At Therman Law Offices, our dedicated team of personal injury lawyers has counseled clients throughout the region, and we are standing by to provide you with the zealous and compassionate advocacy that you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 775-545-8849 or contact us online.

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