A Nightclub Patron’s Successful Use of Default Judgment in Her Illinois Slip-and-Fall Case

water spillOnce you decide to sue someone for your injuries, you might think that the process is fairly straightforward. File your complaint with the court clerk. Serve notice of the complaint on the person or entity you’re suing. Exchange documents and information as part of discovery. Appear for trial and present your case. The reality is, though, that there is more that goes into a civil lawsuit like a personal injury case. Sometimes, there is much more. The twists and turns of a case may be unpredictable, which is why it pays to have skilled Illinois injury counsel representing you so that you can respond to each twist or turn in a strategic way for the advancement of your case.

A recent slip-and-fall case was an example of the skillful use of procedural tools. Michelle, the eventual plaintiff, visited an East St. Louis nightclub in May 2015 and, while there, slipped and fell, suffering substantial injuries. As a result of those injuries, the woman sued the shriners’ temple that owned the nightclub. Her lawsuit alleged that her slip-and-fall accident was a result of some foreign substance on the floor of the club.

Michelle’s lawsuit alleged that the temple was negligent for allowing the substance onto the floor and then not addressing it in a timely fashion. Michelle retained counsel, and an outside agent was also hired to serve notice of the lawsuit on the temple. The agent certified that he served the papers on the temple’s registered agent at the address listed with the Illinois Secretary of State.

No one filed a response on behalf of the temple. When you sue, and the opposition fails to file a response within the time period allowed by the law, that failure may give you extra procedural options. Specifically, you can potentially obtain what’s called a default judgment. That means that the opposition’s failure to act in a timely manner has placed it in default, and that entitles you to a judgment in your favor, even without a trial. The trial judge in Michelle’s case issued a default judgment and awarded her more than $42,000 in damages. After the court entered the judgment, the temple sought to set aside the default judgment and revive the case.

There are certain specific circumstances in which a party that lost a case as a result of a default judgment can get that judgment thrown out. Failing to serve the proper individual can be one of those reasons. In its filing with the Secretary of State, the temple listed its registered address as a residence in Fletcherville and a man by the first name of Jesse. Michelle’s process server successfully served a man named Jesse at the address listed with the government. Even though the man whom the process server served was Jesse III, and the true registered agent of the temple was that man’s son, Jesse IV, the service of the court papers was still valid. The paperwork the temple filed with the government simply said “Jesse,” rather than “Jesse IV.” All of this meant that the process server sufficiently did his job.

What you can take away from this case filled with procedural techniques and legal tools like default judgment and service of process is that there may be many technical procedural elements to your case — things that have nothing to do with the facts of your injury. Dealing with them in an optimal fashion can greatly benefit your case, while a failure to address them can possibly do your case significant (or even fatal) harm.

The skilled Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck have been helping injured people navigate the civil legal system in Illinois for many years. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, our team can help you deal with the legal process at every step of the way. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Six Airline Employees Injured in Bus-Versus-Baggage-Cart Collision at O’Hare Airport, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, April 11, 2018

When You Can Sue an Illinois Employer for the Criminal Acts of Its Employee, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, April 10, 2018

Photo Credit: merio, [CC0 License], via Pixabay