Man fails his appeal in property injury case

Sergio Lopez’s premises liability and negligence complaint against Bruce Wallenberg and 1826 W. Erie LLC was dismissed by the Circuit Court of Cook County on grounds of lack of due diligence in serving the defendants. The complaint, filed on June 24, 2020, alleged that Lopez sustained injuries from a fall down an unsafe staircase at a property owned by the defendants.

Lopez’s case faced multiple setbacks primarily due to his failure to serve process efficiently. After filing the complaint, Lopez attempted to serve Wallenberg at various addresses identified through skip traces but failed to ensure proper delivery of summonses. The initial attempt at service was made on July 15, 2020, but was quashed when it was revealed that the summons had been served on a contractor rather than Wallenberg himself. Subsequent attempts were either not documented or resulted in no contact with Wallenberg.

The trial court found significant periods of inactivity in Lopez’s efforts to serve the defendants, which spanned over two years since the filing of the case and four years after the alleged injury occurred. This included gaps where no documented attempts at service were made for months at a time. Despite hiring a private investigator and conducting additional skip traces, Lopez only managed to perfect service via a special process server more than two years after filing the lawsuit.

Defendants moved to dismiss under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 103(b), arguing that Lopez failed to exercise reasonable diligence in effectuating service. The trial court agreed, noting that while some efforts were made by Lopez, they were insufficient given the overall delay and lack of prompt action in delivering summonses for service.

Lopez appealed the dismissal, contending that he had performed due diligence through multiple skip traces and issuance of alias summonses. He also argued that misleading statements by Wallenberg regarding his residence contributed to delays in service. However, these arguments did not sway the appellate court.

The appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision, emphasizing that mere issuance of summonses without ensuring their delivery for service does not constitute due diligence. The court also noted that plaintiff’s inactivity during significant periods post-filing demonstrated a lack of reasonable effort to effectuate service promptly.

Plaintiff sought reconsideration from the trial court but was denied. On appeal, he reiterated his claims about defendant’s misleading statements and his own diligent efforts; however, these were deemed unconvincing given the extensive delays and procedural lapses highlighted by both courts.

Representing Sergio Lopez is null (plaintiff’s lawyer name not provided). Defendants Bruce Wallenberg and 1826 W. Erie LLC are represented by null (defendant’s lawyers names not provided). The case was presided over by Judge Gerald V. Cleary under Case ID No. 20 L 6749.

This article was first published in Cook County Record.

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