Judgment Against Two or More Defendants that is Vacated as to one of them Need not be Sole Reason to Vacate any of other Defendants

In Carolina Casualty Insurance Co. v. Estate of Sperl, a truck driver was involved in a multiple car accident in which she was unable to stop in time and ran over several vehicles. As a result of the collision, Joseph Sperl (“Sperl”) and Thomas Sanders (“Sanders”) were killed, William Taluc (“Taluc”) was severely injured, and several other people suffered personal injuries and property damage. The truck driver owned the truck she was driving and operated it under the federal motor carrier authority of Dragon Fly Express, Inc. (“Dragon Fly”). At the time of the accident, Carolina Casualty Insurance Company (“CCIC”) provided coverage to Dragon Fly under a commercial transportation policy. The insurance policy contained a combined single liability limit of $1 million for bodily injury and property damage and obligated CCIC to pay all interest that accrued on any judgment that was entered. CCIC, on behalf of all the listed plaintiffs, filed an interpleader action against several defendants to resolve multiple potential claims that existed as to the proceeds of a CCIC insurance policy arising out of a multiple-vehicle traffic accident. Prior to trial, CCIC moved to voluntarily dismiss defendants, the estates of Sperl and Sanders, from the action, alleging that the claims of the estates had been satisfied in full and that the estates no longer had an interest in the disputed funds. After written and oral arguments on the matter, the trial court granted CCIC’s motion to dismiss the estates from the inter-pleader action and also denied motions that had been made by the estates for leave to file counterclaims for breach of settlement contract and garnishment. The estates appealed.

On appeal, the estates argued that the trial court erred in granting CCIC’s motion to voluntarily dismiss the estates from the inter-pleader action. The estates asserted that they are necessary and indispensable parties in the inter-pleader action; that they have stated legitimate claims to the disputed funds; and that they should be allowed to prove those claims like every other defendant in the inter-pleader case. CCIC argued that the trial court’s ruling was proper and should be affirmed. CCIC asserted that the estates did not have a claim to the disputed funds because their judgments in the underlying case had been satisfied in full.

The court reviewed whether the trial court’s vacation of the survival awards applies to Henry and Dragon Fly in addition to other plaintiffs, or whether it applied only to the plaintiffs that filed a post-trial motion to challenge the survival awards. The court held that since Dragon Fly and Henry vacated the survival awards, the judgments owing to the estates had been satisfied in full. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant plaintiffs’ voluntary motion to dismiss the estates from the inter-pleader case, as they no longer had an interest in the action.

Illinois Insurance Law: When a judgment or decree against two or more defendants is vacated as to one of them, it need not for that reason alone be vacated as to any of the others. A judgment should not be vacated as to any of the others unless it appears that because of an interdependence of the rights of the defendants or because of other special factors it would be prejudicial and inequitable to leave the judgment standing against them.

Carolina Casualty Ins. Co. v. The Estate of Sperl, 2015 IL App (1st) 130294.