The Illinois Supreme Court released a decision last month in Williams v. BNSF Railway Company, 2015 IL 117444, which reversed the Illinois Court of Appeals' prior ruling in the case and clarified that the 30-day deadline to file a notice of appeal after the entry of a final district court judgment does not start to run until the ruling is entered of record, which means the judgment or order must be written down in the case record by the clerk, and not just made into an oral ruling that is mentioned in a minute entry.
The Facts of the Case
This case started with a workplace-related injury when the plaintiff, who was a crane operator, was instructed by defendant BNSF to do a type of crane work that generally requires a second worker to direct the crane, although the plaintiff was told to do the work on his own. The worker was then injured when he exited the crane to complete the work that is usually the responsibility of the second worker.
The worker filed suit against BNSF and a subcontractor, QTS, that was also involved on the job. After the jury reached a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, BNSF appealed the verdict and argued that the court was mistaken in rejecting their claim against QTS. On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that they could not address BNSF’s appeal because it was not filed within 30 days of entry of the judgment being appealed. BNSF appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that the court's oral ruling being appealed was not entered of record until much later than the court's actual ruling from the bench.
The Case on Appeal
The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with BNSF and explained that under Supreme Court Rule 272, the 30-day deadline for filing an appeal starts when the order being appealed is entered of record. Since the court clerk never entered the oral ruling in the case record book, the Supreme Court ruled that the judgment was not entered of record until much later, and it allowed BNSF's appeal to continue.
The Court reasoned that BNSF could not be expected to know that the deadline was upcoming when the court entered no judgment in the record book and no written order was released. Based on this ruling, the case will be sent back down to the Court of Appeals, and BNSF's actual claims will be considered.
Unnecessary Delay in Personal Injury Cases
The accident that this case centers around happened in 2003, and after at least two appeals, the case is headed back to another appeals court for more consideration. The final orders in this case will hopefully end up just and fair, but all of the parties involved are having to wait far too long for the case to be resolved. If you or a loved one is looking into filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is best to get everything done correctly the first time, since most plaintiffs do not have the ability to go through with costly appeals just to get the compensation they deserve.
Have You Lost a Loved One in an Illinois Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident, a skilled Illinois workplace accident attorney can help you make the case for compensation. The dedicated attorneys at the Cavanagh Law Group have experience handling complex injury cases. We are not afraid to fight for our clients and get them the compensation that they deserve. At the Cavanagh Law Group, we handle all accident and injury cases. Contact us today.