Many lawyers have found themselves slightly confused while appearing in courtroom 1501 of the Richard M. Daley Center for the first time. Courtroom 1501 is responsible for handling all First District Municipal cases in which a jury demand has been filed. These cases are typically personal injury lawsuits arising from motor vehicle accidents. Unlike the Law Division, which has a number of judges and court rooms handling cases, there is only one courtroom to handle all of the Municipal Department cases involving a jury demand. As a result, there are a myriad of discovery and arbitration rules that every lawyer and insurance adjuster should be aware of if they have a case pending in courtroom 1501.
There are two main court calls in courtroom 1501 every day: the progress call and the motion call. The progress call is held at 9:30 a.m. and is primarily a status on service of the defendants. The clerk will post the docket on a bulletin board outside of the courtroom, and if all of the defendants in a given case have been served, the board will indicate an All Discovery Close (ADC) date. If there has not been service on all of the defendants, the board will indicate a new progress call date or it will indicate that the parties should appear before the judge. The plaintiff is responsible for handling the progress call and entering the relevant order as indicated by the board. If any information on the clerk’s bulletin board is incorrect, such as an indication that service has been made when it has not, an attorney can approach the judge and request that the case be called so that the issue can be addressed. This is why it is still important for defense attorneys to appear for the progress call.
Often the clerk’s bulletin board will indicate an ADC date. There is a form “ADC order” in the courtroom that must be filled out that sets the time within which all written and oral discovery must be completed. The amount of time permitted for discovery in Municipal Department cases depends on the amount of the ad damnum. If the ad damnum is $10,000 or less, no discovery is permitted without leave of court, and the court typically frowns on motions for leave to conduct discovery in those cases. If the ad damnum is $10,001 to $20,000, the parties are given approximately 90 days to complete discovery. If the ad damnum is greater than $20,000, the parties are given approximately 120 days to complete discovery.
Unlike Law Division cases, there is no ongoing monitoring of discovery in Municipal Department cases. The parties are simply given the ADC date and expected to complete all discovery by that deadline. Any discovery not completed before that date is deemed waived. Any motions with respect to discovery, such as motions to compel or motions to extend the ADC date, must be filed on or before the ADC date or they are also waived. All motions of course, such as motions to dismiss, may be spindled with the clerk and set for hearing at 10:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. daily.
All cases pending in courtroom 1501 are assigned to mandatory arbitration. The mandatory arbitrations are held daily at 222 N. LaSalle Street at the Circuit Court of Cook County Arbitration Center at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The arbitrations are presided over by a panel of three attorneys who issue an award. Either party can reject the arbitration award within 30 days of the arbitration by filing a rejection and paying the $200 fee. In the event of multiple plaintiffs or defendants, a rejection of an award by one party serves to reject the award as to all parties. Once a rejection is filed, the parties are assigned a trial judge.
Due to the fast discovery schedule and the value of the claims in the Municipal Department, many attorneys will reach an agreement with respect to deposing treating physicians after the arbitration in an effort to save costs. This should be done by agreement and put in writing prior to the ADC date. Once the case is assigned a trial judge, the parties can advise that some additional discovery is needed before trial.
There are additional caveats to litigating a case in 1501, but those mentioned herein are some of the most important. The pertinent question, however, is whether you want your case pending in 1501. This depends primarily on the value of the case and the amount of discovery that will be needed. Smaller value cases that require little to no discovery can often be settled quickly after the arbitration. However, if you have a case that is unlikely to settle, it is often better to seek a transfer to the Law Division so that you can take the necessary time to complete all discovery and avoid the cost of participating in the arbitration. At any rate, knowing the lay of the land in 1501 is an important part of evaluating any case that may be pending in the First Municipal Department.