Brandon v. DeBusk, 78-458

Citation85 Ill.App.3d 645,41 Ill.Dec. 1,407 N.E.2d 193
Decision Date01 July 1980
Docket NumberNo. 78-458,78-458
Parties, 41 Ill.Dec. 1 Erick BRANDON, a minor, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Fred DeBUSK et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Sheldon Oliver Zisook, Ltd., Chicago, for plaintiffs-appellants.

O'Reilly & Cunningham, Edward R. Duncan, Jr., Wheaton, for defendants-appellees.

SEIDENFELD, Presiding Justice:

The plaintiffs are minors appearing by their father who filed a suit to recover damages for injuries allegedly sustained in an accident on July 4, 1976. They appeal from a judgment which denied their petition brought under Section 72 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 110, par. 72) to vacate a prior order dismissing the cause for failure to comply with discovery and awarding attorney's fees to the defendants' attorney. The propriety of dismissing the minors' cases for the failure of the minors' representative to comply with discovery is the principal issue.


If the interests of the minors were not involved the record before us would fully sustain the trial court's order of dismissal. The suit was filed on behalf of the minors, then ages 7, 10 and 11, on October 26, 1977. Defendants' request for answers to interrogatories and for production of documents filed on November 28, 1977, received no response; after 28 days defendants sent a further written request for a response within another 28 days; on March 23, 1978, on defendants' motion plaintiffs were given 14 additional days and the motion to dismiss was continued to April 13, 1978. On April 13 plaintiffs did not appear and the trial court entered an order of dismissal for failure to comply with discovery, with a copy of the order being sent to plaintiffs' attorney. Plaintiffs then filed notice for a May 11, 1978, hearing on a motion to vacate the dismissal order but on that date again failed to appear. Plaintiffs filed a second notice to vacate specifying a May 25, 1978, hearing date. Again plaintiffs failed to appear. The trial court on its own motion continued the matter to permit plaintiffs to file a section 72 petition.

The section 72 hearing was held on June 1, 1978. At that time certain answers to interrogatories were filed but there was no compliance with the notice to produce documents. The matter was continued to June 8 for compliance and on that date it appeared that in response to a question on medical expenses the plaintiffs stated "amounts unknown at this time; investigation continues." The answers further indicated that plaintiffs did not know what dates they were absent from school, nor the names of their teachers. Further, the interrogatories indicated that photographs had been taken at the accident site yet plaintiffs had failed to produce the photographs as requested by the notice. The court again continued the matter for two weeks to allow plaintiffs to comply indicating it would not grant the section 72 petition unless plaintiffs fully complied.

At the hearing on June 22, plaintiffs' attorney indicated that he did not have written answers to the interrogatories but rather wanted to read the answers into the record. In response to the court's question in regard to plaintiffs' failure to provide written answers the attorney indicated that he had been unable to subpoena the doctor but admitted that the subpoena had not been issued until June 20. No reason was given for the failure to respond in writing nor for the failure to subpoena the doctor at an earlier date. In regard to the interrogatories plaintiffs' attorney stated that the plaintiffs had made a thorough search of their records and that they had no bills. However, plaintiffs had a "general recollection of the general amount being approximately $200 for each child".

The trial court then entered an order denying plaintiffs' section 72 petition without prejudice, and ordered plaintiffs' attorney to pay defendants' attorney $300 attorney's fees.

Under Supreme Court Rule 213(c) (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 110A, 213(c)) a party is required to file a sworn answer or objection to each interrogatory within 28 days of service of interrogatory. Also in answering interrogatories the party is required to answer fully and in good faith to the extent of the actual knowledge and information available to the party or his attorney. (See, e. g., Battershell v. Bowman Dairy Co., 37 Ill.App.2d 193, 201, 185 N.E.2d 340 (1962).) Unwritten answers unsworn to would not satisfy the statutory requirements. Further, the balance of the information requested was clearly available to the plaintiffs. See, also, Biehler v. White Metal Rolling & Stamping Corp., 30 Ill.App.3d 435, 441, 333 Ill.Dec. 716 (1975).

The propriety of the dismissal order which was not timely appealed is technically not before the court. (Cf. Bailey v. Twin City Barge & Towing Co., 70 Ill.App.3d 763, 765, 771, 26 Ill.Dec. 788, 388 N.E.2d 789 (1979).) To be entitled to section 72 relief plaintiffs were required to prove due diligence including proof that they were diligent in pursuing their claim "prior to the dismissal toward which the section 72 relief is directed." (Bailey at 768, 26 Ill.Dec. at 792, 388 N.E.2d at 793. See, also, M.L.C. Corp. v. Pallas, 59 Ill.App.3d 504, 511, 16 Ill.Dec. 687, 375 N.E.2d 560 (1978).) Plaintiffs have in no way demonstrated diligence prior to the entry of the dismissal order nor have they alleged facts and circumstances which might have precluded dismissal had they been known to the trial court. The affidavit in support of their section 72 petition fails to explain why the interrogatories could not be timely answered nor why plaintiffs' attorney did not appear in court in March or April of 1978 to explain the failure to comply. Only after the dismissal did plaintiffs take steps to provide answers or to explain the inability to comply, and then quite unsatisfactorily.

The inquiry thus narrows to the effect which the minority of the plaintiffs should have on our review of the denial of section 72 relief. Minor litigants are, of course, entitled to special protection by the courts, particularly to see that their rights are protected even from the neglect of their representative in order to do substantial justice. (Muscarello v. Peterson, 20 Ill.2d 548, 555, 170 N.E.2d 564 (1960).) The principle has been applied to discovery disclosure rules. (Stimpert v. Abdnour, 30 Ill.App.2d 159, 166, 173 N.E.2d 817 (1961).) Even where minors are not involved the drastic sanction of dismissal for failure to comply with discovery should only be invoked where the plaintiff shows a deliberate and contumacious disregard of the court's authority. (Cedric Spring & Associates v. N.E.I. Corp., 81 Ill.App.3d 1031, 37 Ill.Dec. 462, 468, 402 N.E.2d 352, 358 (1980).) It follows that where minors are involved alternative sanctions...

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  • Kim v. Evanston Hosp., 1-90-3645
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    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 29 Diciembre 1992
    ...... even from the neglect of their representative in order to do substantial justice." (Brandon v. DeBusk (1980), 85 Ill.App.3d 645, 648, 41 Ill.Dec. 1, 3, 407 N.E.2d 193, 195 (because a minor ......
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    ...174 Ill.App.3d at 1007, 124 Ill.Dec. at 621-22, 529 N.E.2d at 602-03.) The court then added, citing Brandon v. DeBusk (1980), 85 Ill.App.3d 645, 41 Ill.Dec. 1, 407 N.E.2d 193, "[M]inors [are] entitled to special protection by the courts, particularly to see that their rights [are] protected......
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